2

Kerrick woke to the death of the last remaining drop of her narcotic bliss and the birth of a nightmare. She opened her eyes and pushed to a sit on the uncomfortable cot in the Silvers' cell, looking around. Through the large glass windows, the moon just barely peeked out and illuminated the outlines of the room in a dark contrast.

The air still contained the faintest hint of that morning's scorched pot of warm brew and she wished she had a cup of decaf now, to wash the chill from her bones and sooth her back to sleep.

When was the last time she'd had a decent cup?

When was the last time she slept through the night?

"Too long ago." She muttered aloud to keep herself company in the silence and regretted it just as quickly. Her words echoed in the room; bounced off of the metallic desks, the steel-lined windows and the polished linoleum floors.

As far as she was concerned, it was a distortion and this unnerved her.

She wasn't a coward, Kerrick assured herself, it was just harder to be brave without a golden sun outside your window and inside your veins. When the sun set in the sky and the pleasure-filled synapses of your brain, the ghosts and ghouls kept at bay by the light tended to come out.

Demons of doubt. They plagued her mind well into the night when the Raptures weren't doing their job.

With an irritable sigh, she settled herself back down on the cot and closed her eyes, draping a dirty forearm over them to seal herself away from the reality of true, all-consuming darkness of night.

"Tall Man, Tall Man, sing a song for me. Tall Man, Tall Man, I don't like that tune..." She mumbled the words under her breath, struggling to remember the next line in the rhyme. "Tall Man, Tall Man, take me away from me."

Take her away like he took Annie.

Kerrick's stomach let out a sudden, painful gurgle and she grimaced. Annie's locket wasn't long for this world at this rate—and neither were her intestines. She didn't quite like playing chicken with the Silvers and her internal organs, but sometimes you had to throw caution into the haystack with all the other ne'er-do-wells and hope for the best.

Hoping to quell the jewelry's rage for just a moment, she patted her stomach uncertainly and tried to relax once more.

"Tall Man, Tall Man, come get me soon."

She didn't have to ask him, the Tall Man would find her on his own.

He seemed to prefer hide and seek to the game of tag.


She had once woken to the feel of worn cloth, perfumed with narcotic sleep; sweet, briefly, then foul and rotten as her breaths quickened in panic. Wooziness and stars had floated behind her eyes until she shut them, feigning unconsciousness and waiting for the rag to disappear. It had not. The world went a bit hazy after that.

Today, she woke to the sharp aroma of coffee—this time rich and exotic, rather than smelling strongly of burnt beans—and found it to be much better than chloroform. After a pause, she opened her eyes and sat up on the cot, looking over and spying Delphi by the pot.

The Silver seemed to feel Kerrick's eyes on her, as she turned around not a moment later and, after picking up a cup, walked over, handing it through the bars. "Here. It's a cold morning, don't want you catching something." Spying her obvious hesitation, a half-smile curled her lips. "Christian wanted me to put laxatives in the cup. I didn't."

Kerrick glanced over at the conjoined desks, and the man with the shaved head she'd identified as Delphi's partner yesterday waved at her, grinning.

"Hope you put some in his cup instead." She took the mug with a slight nod and a grin of her own, warming her hands.

"I considered it, but he'd take it as an excuse to start complaining about his hemorrhoids."

"Too much information, thanks."

"I don't believe in that, actually." Delphi took a seat near Kerrick's cage, reclining in the hard plastic furniture. "I believe in too little."

"Isaac took his shot at me, now they're trying you? Good Cop, Coffee Cop?" She blew gently on the surface of the liquid. Delphi chuckled softly and she decided she liked the sound—it was a pleasant noise, like the wind gently rustling a pile of papers in the early morning.

"Silvers aren't cops. You know that."

This was true, as Silvers were their own force; a force to be reckoned with, especially when the price was high. Investigative mercenaries, almost. Owned by everyone and no one.

A flash of the silver rings on their fingers—starting off as stark bands and growing more elaborate as they increased in rank and power—showed the police that it was time to step aside.

They had lost their territory long ago.

"I know. It's just an expression."

"A silly one, I think. Especially considering the lack of power they have these days." Delphi took another sip of the warm brew. "Aren't you going to have some?"

"I have this thing about eating and drinking when people are looking. Nothing personal."

"Or do you just prefer metal to coffee?"

She felt her smile stiffen, but fought to keep it as carefree as possible. "Maybe."

"We've scheduled a hospital appointment for you this afternoon. They'll be removing the locket. You'll stay overnight while the Patchers do their work, then we'll take you back the following morning."

The struggle to keep calm was quickly becoming a losing battle. "And what then?" Kerrick asked, tightening her fingers around the mug, not looking down to see the waxy white color invade her fingertips.

"Then we'll decide where you're going to stay. Of course, it'll be with one of us. I'm just going to tell you now, I really don't recommend staying with Christian. Apart from being an idiot, he's also a pig—his apartment is a total mess. No one knows what Brask or his place are like, since no one's been there any he doesn't talk much. I can't really vouch for any of the other Silvers either."

"So you're saying I should stay with you."

"Just us girls, you know? Not like you've really got a better choice." She chuckled again and Kerrick changed her mind about it. She didn't like the sound one bit. She let her smile thin and called the ice water back into her veins, letting it freeze her eyes.

"I'll think about it."

Delphi's smile faltered and she glanced down at Kerrick's hands—warm around the mug, but white and cold as anger drove the heat away—and knew that somewhere she had made a deadly misstep.

"I'll leave you to that, then." She slid out of her chair, returning to her desk. Kerrick set the mug on the ground and climbed back onto the cot, turning her back on them and shutting her eyes, one hand splayed lightly over her stomach.

Across the room, Delphi glanced over at her before returning her attention to the various forms and files that were awaiting completion.

"She doesn't like hospitals."

"Maybe she doesn't like the idea of someone cutting her open and reaching inside." Brask rumbled from his own corner of their office. Delphi and Christian both shuddered, feeling his sandpaper voice grate over the frayed edges of their nerves.

"Isaac better bring us apology coffee." Christian muttered. "And apology beer. I'm going to be on edge for the rest of the day without a bottle."

"I hate it when he talks." Delphi agreed. Only God knew why Brask was still a Silver, and He seemed unwilling to share. Maybe the ring on his finger—longer than any of theirs, ornate but somehow delicate, juxtaposed with the enormous man—was supposed to speak for itself.

But the ring was silent, and soon the only sounds in the room consisted of the scratching of pen upon paper, the chiming of holo-forms, and Kerrick's light snoring.