Chapter 2- Darts and Blood (continued)

Numair was shoved into the room and Alliya's limp, unconscious body was dumped next to him. A large hand was clamped onto his shoulder like a vice, the broad fingers digging into beneath the shoulder blades, merciless and dagger-like.

The man before them was laid out luxuriously on the chair like a tiger. He was wearing the shiniest jacket Numair had ever seen; it was deep maroon in colour and tiny rectangles covered it…Numair could not distinguish exactly what it was…

"Finest crocodile skin. And I presume you are wondering why the scales are so small and perfect? Let me tell you a little secret…" Hoff got out of his tiger pose and walked over, each stride echoing with ambition and greed and leaned close to Numair's ear.

Numair swallowed a lump from his throat and stared forwards in determination not to look upon the eyes of this maniac.

"The reason is…" he whispered, "I only ever skin baby crocodiles." He paused and put on a fake mask of urgency into his voice, "but Shh…don't want the police find out…oh but wait…you're not gonna be able to tell a soul because in a few hour's time, you and your girlfriend here…will be dead."

Numair was torn apart on the inside. The plan was falling into ruins and he had let Alliya down. She was going to die because of him. Because he chose this option. The mask of non-emotion buckled slightly. A bead of cold sweat dripped down Numair's forehead.

Hoff leaned away, the words he chose having an obvious and desired affect. Hoff had always learnt; 'break the enemy on the inside, the outside will come much easier'.

He walked back casually to his chair and sank down into the soft padded seat.

"Gavin some wine for the guest and me please…it'd be so rude not to get…acquainted." He waved a lazy hand and immediately a manservant sprang from the shadows. He scuttled over to the built-in bar of Hoff's office and took out a bottle of the famous brand 'Pommery-Brut Royal' and two crystal flutes and handed them to Hoff, the wine in a silk embroidery handkerchief. Hoff took them both and laid the wine glasses on a petit silver table. He poured in the golden liquor to midway on both glasses and set the bottle down. He stood and offered one to Numair.

Numair looked up at the beast holding Alliya and himself hostage, at the cold, grey eyes and at the dyed, black hair. The last thing he wanted to do was to share a drink with a megalomaniac. He decided to make a bold gesture of hatred and spat into the offered cup.

Hoff seemed amazed at this but only for a fraction of a second. He smiled and withdrew the glass and gave it to the manservant who tipped it away and cleaned it. He bent down onto his knees and lifted Numair's head with a bony hand.

"Playing the hero are we? Trying to stay in control of the situation? Well I'm sorry to disappoint you but your time is up." He drained his glass and sighed. "This should teach any other criminal friends of yours not to mess with the number one. Take them away." He gestured to the door and the last thing Numair felt was a large pain in between his shoulder blades as Hoff's bodyguard slammed his large hand into him and a swift darkness enclosed his mind.

Alliya awoke in a cell. It took a long time for her mind to register the fact that their plan had not succeeded and had yet placed them in a dangerous and unknown situation. To add to this, a large pain was erupting out of her stomach which did not really help her as she analysed the situation. The room they were in was a perfect square of stainless steel. There were no windows and no doors…in fact Alliya could not see a nook or cranny in the room from which they could've come in or escape. Did Hoff really want them to die so…normally? Didn't Hoff want to test their resistance?

"Oh, my head…" came a groan from behind her. Numair had seemed to have woken up at last. Alliya quickly rushed over to help her old friend to his feet. Numair stretched his long, muscular frame but instantly recoiled. There was a large, dagger-like pain in the central spot in between the shoulder blades. He quickly relaxed his body, counting to ten and letting this pain go…something that his Japanese sensei had taught him in his early years of martial art training.

"The cavemen didn't do anything else to you did they?" asked Alliya, her face bore an expression of deep concern and her voice was filled with unsuppressed anger.

Seeing the seething expression on her face, Numair sprang up as though he had never been harmed at all even though it made his frame cry out with agony. He gently looked into Alliya's dark, bloodshot eyes and smiled warmly.

"Don't worry about me. I'm fine." He strolled to the corner of the room and leant against the cold metal. He could feel his skin reacting to the sudden change in temperature and goose bumps began to rise over his arms. He sighed. "The plan didn't work did it?"

Alliya looked away. She could feel Numair's disappointment rising up in her chest. This was the moment that she had been dreading. She had had a flawless record. All her cons and crimes successful and nobody had ever suspected her. She had fabricated a perfect escape and yet, somehow it had failed. Hoff had managed to look straight through their plan and what made it worse was that he seemed to do so without effort. Alliya had made a mistake that almost cost her life and the life of one of her few friends. Numair, Alliya sensed, would think her an amateur, a mere criminal, somebody unworthy of his talents...she felt fiery tears of despair well up in her eyes and hid her face behind a shaking hand.

Numair could see that his friend was uncomfortable. He pushed himself off the wall and quickly went over to her and put a comforting arm around her. She was trembling. Numair could see not the face of a devilishly intelligent female who was a natural at deceit and ambush, but a shy, young woman who was lost and lonely. A girl that, perhaps, Alliya may have become had her father not been so brutally murdered. Alliya gave a great sniff, tears rolling freely down her cheeks now, choked gasps of breath escaping her lips.

"Look, I don't care what happens. You're still the best in my eyes," he said with a fierce pride. He took out a small, white handkerchief and offered it to Alliya. She accepted and dabbed her eyes.

The tears stopped, Alliya's breathing calmed. What am I doing? She thought.

Then, with a heave, she pushed away Numair's arms and stood up straight. Determination burned in her eyes. Hoff was not going to get the better of her. She handed the handkerchief back to Numair. "No need for that anymore," she said.

Numair let out a chuckle and clapped Alliya's shoulder with a large hand. "C'mon. Let's get outta here."