Chapter 14: Unwelcome Guest
AN: GOOD LORD!
Fancy seeing me here- sorry I've been away so long, my pretties. It's been a loooonnnnngggg few weeks- exams, essays, and enough personal problems to give Lindsey lohan a run for her money. But enough about me- let's get on with Condemned!
(One thing; I suggest you read over the last chapter, because even I had to do that when I started writing- I'd completely forgot where I was and where on earth I was going D:)
"Did you see him?" I ask Andri as he approaches the cell, carrying three bowls of rice.
"No," he answers flatly, handing a bowl to Bobby, who is sat on his crate outside the cage.
"Think not on him," Andri says, "he is temperamental- you have seen that." Andri pretends to laugh, but I can see it's thinly veiled.
"Are you alright?" I ask quietly, empathetic towards the bruising against the man's jawline. He's seemed off since Bane left- a little shaken, almost. Weakness is not something I thought I'd ever see in Andri, but it's been visible the last couple of days.
"Fine, fine. Don't ask such silly things. Now come, you have work to be doing, no? Clean the clothes. You told Barsad they would be done today, and it's already gone midday, just look at the sun!"
"I'm eating, aren't I?! Besides, I'm sure a few hours longer of waiting won't do any damage- let's face it, it's not like any of us are going anywhere."
Andri chuckles, rubbing his forearms as though to warm himself, although the sun is abnormally hot today.
"Those two are good," he says. "Firm-spirited and strong. They'll do well down here, I think. Though they still seem naïve- that may be their downfall."
I think on that a moment, spooning rice with my spatula- a skill I've now fully mastered.
"So are they brothers, or-?"
"No, no, friends. From the same village, they told us- they were penniless, they said. The usual sob story- their families hadn't enough to eat, so they tried some petty robbery in a liquor store in a richer part of town. Got away with it, as well, until on the way back a couple of officers pulled them up for speeding in the getaway car they'd stolen from the scene. They found the money in Firdos' lap, assumed they were drug dealers. No trial, no anything- threw the pair down here three weeks later. Just like that."
"Just like that," I repeat sadly. I can't put to rest the questions now floating above the surface of my brain.
"But that seems so... petty. I mean, just drug dealing- and they didn't even do it? I know it's hardly a small crime, being a dealer, but to be thrown down here forever? I mean- being here, forever, just able to see your escape- It's more extreme than the death sentence, don't you think?"
"They are local," Andri says, "that is the way things work in their home. Anyone seen to be a trouble maker is thrown in here to rot."
"But then... If this is just a normal prison, why am- are we- here? Neither of us are local. Someone went to a lot of trouble to get us in here- they must have done."
"Someone must have really wanted you to disappear," Andri answers. I gulp.
"Yeah, but- let's be honest, if you wanted someone gone that badly, why bother sending them out here and shoving them down this hole forever? Why not just kill them? It would be a lot simpler, and save a lot of money on jet fuel."
"Jet?!" Andri laughs, "You're lucky. I was brought over in the back of a van- it took nearly two weeks!"
"Petrol, then," I grin. I want to ask him why he's here now, but I know that if I divert from the path now I'll never get my questions answered.
"So why, Andri? Why didn't they just kill us?"
He looks up at me, struggling with the solemn nature the conversation is converting to.
"Tell me," he says. "Who did you wrong- the Government, some aristocrat, a mob boss-?"
"I didn't wrong anybody!" I say defensively.
"Upset, then," he says dismissively, leaning in closer. "Or got in the way. Saw something you shouldn't have? It doesn't really matter anyway. You see, my dear, these types- some of them would rather not have blood on their hands, and pride themselves on keeping their ledgers clean. They see flat-out murder as distasteful, and see this as a cleaner, less troubling alternative. This place is a dumping ground for all their little problems and fop as... or, of course, whoever had you dumped down here really does just want you to suffer more than any other human being could imagine. Now come on- those clothes are not going to wash themselves, are they?"
"I suppose not," I say, placing the half-empty bowl of the floor then getting up begrugedly, sighing and picking up the delivered pile of clothes from the side of the bed. "Hi ho, hi ho."
Hands elbow-deep in dirty wash water, I watch as Andri leaves the cell again, singing under my breath as the prison moves around me.
As darkness begins to fall, Firdos, the slighter of the two Arabian boys, comes to collect their laundry. I smile wistfully at him, folding the clothes, which are still rather damp. I pass them through the bars to him, and he takes them with a smile- although we've never spoken- mainly because my Arabic is still grossly undeveloped- I get the feeling that he's a nice guy; too nice to be stuck down here. It's clear that of the two of them, Barsad is in charge; the pair never seem to leave each other's side.
We both thank each other in his home-tongue, then Firdos nods and walks away. As he moves off, I see a frazzly- haired, thin man approaching the cell, a bundle of clothes piled over one arm.
I recognise him to be the chef. He reeks of stale rice- everyone's now praying for the next drop-off, as somehow the dry storage rice got moist and is beginning to fester with greyish mould. Having to pick mould from half the grains of rice in each bowl is certainly not a pleasant experience.
The red-haired chef- if he can be called that- gives me a maniacal, unrealistic grin then drops the clothes through the bars.
"Payment?" I ask in an unremarkable accent, rubbing my fingers as to better represent the action. Through the practice of sign, I manage to defer that he'll give it tomorrow. I manage to explain to him that if he doesn't give the payment first, he won't be getting his clothes back. He shrugs dismissively, then turns his tail and springs back down the dark corridor he resides in the majority of the time, whistling overtly.
The clothes he left behind are reeking out the cell, so I quickly dive them into the water, scrub them down using almost half of the handmade lard-soap I have left, then put them across the room into Bobby and Bane's cell.
Can I call it that anymore? I'm starting to believe Bane has no intention of coming back- after all, he was only here in the first place because he got stabbed, and he's able to manage that on his own now. But would he have just left me here?
Don't be stupid, I tell myself. A better question would be why wouldn't he leave you here. After all, Andri and Bobby don't seem to want to get rid of me- even though I must be a burden. But, then again, at least now I'm raking in some profit- at least I have some other use than just decoration now.
"Aye!" Comes a roar from too close by which de-rails my train of thought. I start, turning back to see what all the fuss is about. Bobby, sat in the sun in his chair, is shaking his head as he watches a further-off scene- it's another fight.
There is a small crescent-shaped crowd which seem to have formed with me in mind, across the other side so that I have full view of what's going on.
Bane is shirtless in the centre of our level of the complex, in view of everyone, opposite a larger, yet leaner, man. As I watch, the taller man leans forwards and cuts Bane across the jaw with a resounding punch, which nearly sends him clattering off his feet. I suck air through my teeth in shock, watching the pair. I pull myself up to the bars, desperately trying to get as good a look as I can.
A dark figure sweeps into the path of my vision and as my eyes refocus, I realise it's the guy who'd tried it on with me all those months ago when Bane had first been wounded- the one I'd stabbed in the back of the knee with a razor then knocked out with a metal basin and tied up.
"Hello again," he says with a smirk, a very faint dip to his stride as he walks closer to the bars. Instinctively I take a step back, but then return to my original place- I'm not scared of him. I ignore his attempts at getting my attention, trying to see around his frame as he stands directly in my field of vision. At another great guffaw from the eager crowd witnessing the fight Bane's involved in, I take a step to the side- the man follows like an irritating shadow, moving in unison when I step back the other way.
"Move," I say firmly, avoiding his eye as I try to see around him, "you're in the way."
"That's no way to treat a costumer," he says, shaking a handful of clothing which, by the smell of it alone, is definitely in need of a wash.
"We're closed," I say back, annoyed that he won't leave, but more so that he's distracting me from finding out what's going on with the fight.
"You are wondering what is going on?" He smiles, "have you not seen them fight like that before? The rules are simple. Last man standing wins. They throw punches at each other until the other hits the ground."
As much as I want to refrain from ever communicating with this slimy sewer-rat of a man again, I am interested in learning as much about the situation as possible.
"Who is he?" I say, referring to the opposition. The sly prisoner warns me to be more specific and I agitatedly point out the man, knowing he's only playing up to grind my gears a little further.
"That is Carriveau," he explains quietly, insisting on practically having his nose in my ear canal as he talks. "He is a Cajun- French Louisianan. Good brawn fighter, but his stamina is low. Perhaps low enough for your little guardian to beat him..."
I can no longer stand the putrid breathing down my ear, and gasp, "can you just go now, please?"
"You could at least use my name, most uncivil of you. It's Nas, in case you were wondering."
"Will you just go now, please, Nas? and no, I wasn't."
"Ah, you used it! Might I ask what yours is, my angel?"
"It's none of your business, that's what it is. And I'm not your angel. I'm not anybody's anything."
"You might want to tell that to Bane," he says, leaning closer, "he seems to think you are his pet. But he has abandoned you now, no? Surely you are in need of a new master-?!"
"Fuck off!" I spit, pushing him through the bars.
"A most uncivil woman you are," he says, with a dangerous bite to his belittling stance.
"I should have stabbed you somewhere more fatal," I say with venom- It takes a moment for him to digest the sentence, but once he does, he laughs loudly.
"It has scarred, you know," he murmurs, pointing to the back of his knee.
"Good!" I shout, wishing him into non-existence. It doesn't work, and when I open my eyes, he's still before me, with that slimy smirk on his sharp features.
"Leave!" I cry, my eyes as vicious and commanding as I can make them. He drops the clothes through the bars and walks away with a wink.
"Well, if you change your mind..."
"Bastard," I say out loud to myself,
My rage at the encounter with him- Nas- makes me almost forget about Bane, until the crowd thunders another cry, this time I see it's Bane's opponent that's taken the hit, and now had a damp stream of blood dribbling down his accented chin. Smiling in a palish manner at his attacker, the opponent- Carnival, carvilou, something like that?- swings once more for Bane, who remains still and doesn't so much as flinch as the fist comes to his face. When it hits, Bane reels a moment. It's not long until the pair are passing banter and talking up for the crowds; I try my hardest to tune in to what they are saying.
"Had 'nuff yet?" The opponent laughs, and Bane says, "you're not getting rid of me that easily, Carriveau."
They throw two more punches, then Bane stems a moment.
"That actually hurt," he says, holding his nose, and the Cajun man sighs.
"Mon chagren, sha cher!" Carriveau coos mickey-taking in his thick, mutilated version of French, voice friendly and laughing.
"Oh, I'm not your darling," Bane laughs back with a breathless sweep of his head, getting ready to roll the next punch.
"Dat's what you tink," he responds with a wink in his thick cajun-louisiannan accent, preparing for the blow- Bane delivers it to his chest with a sharp jab, and the opponent groans.
"Oh, mon chagren, sa cher!" Bane mocks, as Carriveau laughs himself into an upright position, then quickly rams his fist into Bane's neck so that he wobbles backwards dazed.
"I'll tell you sometin- we go tree more rounds, and if we're both still standing we call it a draw and go quits with the takings."
"You're not getting rid of me that easily," Bane smirks, preparing for his next throw. Carriveau laughs, beckoning Bane with his hands. "Oh, Allon-sy, baby."
He takes the hit in a spectacular fashion, shaking his head like a rabid dog for a moment before returning the favour.
Although this is clearly a competition, it seems both sides are utterly relaxed about the whole thing- like beating up a man you appear to be decently engaged with is the norm.
At his next lunge, Bane steps slightly out of the circle drawn around his feet and the sort of 'referee' of the fight calls a foul, and draws a strike in the dust with his finger besides Bane's ring. I don't know how many strikes you get till you're cast out, but Bane's just earnt himself his second.
"So, Bane," says Carriveau, acting as though he were whispering although his performance is clearly for the entire crescent-shaped audience, "tell us about dat lil' tink you're keepin locked up in the old doc'ors."
I've never been referred to as a 'tink' before, and I'm not sure if I like it at all.
Bane rolls his eyes as though he's heard this a thousand times before- and, being the 'owner', as it seems to be thought of, of the only female creature on the complex, I'm sure he has. It makes my skin crawl to think of all the late-night propositions I've been awarded, which have doubled the last couple of nights Bane's been gone. I suddenly wonder if that's the reason Nas came today- he was too scared to approach whilst Bane was still around.
"But still," Carriveau's voice comes, awakening me from the distraction of my thoughts- it seems I've missed a chunk of the conversing. "You're gonna av to start sharin', sha cher. You're not the only one wit a taste fo-"
With that, before Carriveau can finish his sentence, Bane's fist rams into his jugular and the Cajun is sent thundering to the ground, gasping. He wheezes a laugh and half of the crowd cheer, the other groan and try to sneak away before their failed bets can be collected. Bane receives another cheer as he collects his winnings- what appears to be a half-bottle of bootlegged moonshine. He takes a ready swig and tucks it inside the strap of his back brace, which I am glad he has retrieved. A small gathering of men around Bane's stature congregate about him- by the looks of it, haggling to fight with him next time a round is set up.
Bane shrugs them off, but then a larger, more stout figure ploughs through, face-to-face with Bane and makes his offer. There's a hum of a word throughout the crescent crowd, which works its way through the complex quickly and I grab on to any threads of conversation around me in order to catch it. A respectful-looking 30-something man raises his head and moves over to Bobby, not far from me but now fallen asleep in the hot sun, wakes him carefully and says the word, whispered in his ear at first, but quickly turned louder in order for Bobby's disfunctionate ears to pick it up. That time, even I hear it.
Instantly, I remember the name- Dandachi. The prisoner who beat Barsad to a bloody pulp; the one Bane believes stabbed him all those nights ago.
"Don't," I say out loud, eyes set on the two figures in the centre of the pit.
Bane nods and the two clasp hands briefly before the lager party leaves.
"Don't!" I repeat, louder this time, as if this might actually make him here it from all the way across the prison. I shake my head in despair, rubbing a hand across my forid. Bane looks a little uncertain as to the challenge he's just taken on, but I can see already the rage of vengeance against Dandachi bubbling beneath his rough skin. He rolls his shoulders then moves his hand instinctively to the ragged flesh of motten scar tissue at his back, holding it there as he walks off into the cavernous, ant-like workings of the prison.
I look down at the clothes Nas left and give them a harsh kick into the corner of the cell.
Q) How old is the FOC?
A) However old you want her to be! With anything FF I write, I tend to make the lead OC as ambiguous as possible (very little physical description, no defined age/etc. - some, like our FOC in Condemned, don't even have a name), so that readers can bring their own interpretations to the story. You find that, that way, everybody identifies with and reads the character slightly differently, which I think is nice. YOU DECIDE! :D
Q) How often do you update?
A) I try to stick to a once-a-week time frame, but sometimes that just doesn't work out- the only free time I ever really have when I'm feeling creative is when I'm lying in bed (sad, right?), so depending on my tiredness and level of creativity at the time I can write from about three minutes to two hours each night. That's why I sometimes take forever- updates depend on my sleepiness! but yip hip hurrah, i have the next chapter already written in advance, so no super delays this time :D
goodbye, my lovelies, until next update- R&R if you feel so inclined! :)