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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 17

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"Oh. Sorry." I glanced at him. "Someone got out, huh?"

Mary picked at her crust, skirting where the butter was. "Tried. If they catch you alive, they neuter your magic the old-fashioned way. Ralph, show Sunshine your scar."

Sunshine? I thought, not happy about the nickname, but Ralph put down his fork and pulled the hair up from his forehead. "Oh my God," I whispered, and he let his hair fall, turning back to his meal and carefully manipulating the fork... concentrating on it. Slowly, very slowly. They had lobotomized him.

"Tha-that's inhuman," I stammered.

Charles stoically met my horrified gaze. "We're not human."

Silence fell, and I felt cold. I had to get out of here. Like now! Why hadn't anyone summoned me home yet? Ivy said she was okay, but what if Jenks really was hurt and she'd been lying so I wouldn't worry?

I was so lost in my thoughts that I jumped when I realized someone was standing behind me. I turned, coming eye to middle with one of the biggest women I'd ever seen. She wasn't fat, she was big. Big boned, big chested, big ankles, and big hands. Her pudgy face made her eyes look small, but they glinted with intelligence.

"Hey, Mary," she said with a southern accent. It wasn't the elegant sound of a southern belle, but the ugly twang of trailer trash on the edge of the woods with a trampoline out front and stacks of TV Guides by the door. Her fat-lost eyes stared at me as she casually took Mary's tray, holding it over the smaller woman's head while she shoveled her breakfast into her mouth.

"Lenore, this is Rachel," Mary said, her tone shifting to a respectful fearfulness. It pegged my bully meter, and my face warmed. "Rachel has Mark's old cell," Mary finished.

Lenore's eyes narrowed. "You don't need dis, honey," she said, setting Mary's tray down and taking up mine. "Yer figure's jest fine. Let Auntie Lenore take care of yo-o-o-ou."

Just how many syllables are in "you"? I thought dryly. I wasn't going to eat it, but I wasn't going to let Auntie Lenore think she could walk over me either. Trouble was, it was kind of tight at the table, and she held the tray right over me.

I took an angry breath. Mary shook her head, scared. The posted guards weren't watching. They were careful not to, by my estimation. Fine. "Charles, make a hole," I said, and the man casually made a little hop with his hip. Three people protested as he shoved them down, but his bulk made the move fast and easy.

I ducked under the table and slid all the way to the other side, popping up beside him and stepping up onto the bench seat. Standing taller than Lenore, I jerked my tray away. Or at least I tried. The woman had a grip on it as if it was a ticket out of here.

The surrounding conversation died, and all eyes turned to us. Lenore was staring at me as we both held my tray. "You think you can take me, skinny ass?" she said, eager for a fight, and I sighed. Why hadn't Ivy summoned me out before I had to fight someone?

"What I think is, you'd better let go of my tray before I jam it down your shirt," I said. "Anyone ever tell you that you look like an orange in that jumpsuit? Auntie Lenore? More like Auntie Clementine." Hey, if I was going to fight this woman, I was going to do it right.

"You skinny bitch!" she shouted, and people moved. Except for the guards watching us.

"Rachel, no!" Mary said as she scrambled up. "Stop or they'll gas us!"

Not as long as the guards were in here laughing. Lenore made a fist with her free hand. The fork was in it, placed to gouge. She yanked me across the table. I let go before she could pull me into her and dropped, sitting on the table. Bracing myself, I kicked out with both feet, hoping to hit her solar plexus hard enough to wind her. It could be over in ten seconds.

My feet slammed into her. Lenore didn't move, and the shock reverberated all the way back to my spine. My jaw unclenched, and I slowly sent my eyes up to see her smiling at me. My God, the woman was built like a tank. Lenore smirked, then slammed the tray onto my head.

It hit hard, and my vision spun. "You got yerself a sparkly," she said, grabbing my wrist. Suddenly I found myself careening down the table as she walked, me sliding into everyone's trays until I fell off the end in a crash of tin and plastic.

"Ow!" I yelped as I hit, sprawled on the floor.

"Pretty sparkly," she said sarcastically, and I slipped in coffee and eggs as I tried to get up, helpless in the woman's grip. "Dey only make demon summoners wear dees," she said, wedging a thick finger between me and the charmed silver. "You summon demons?"

"No," I panted. "But I'm a liar, too."

"Then you don't need it none," she said, trying to pull it off me.

"Hey! Stop!" I yelled, but the guards only laughed. I was covered in egg and coffee, and half the table was angry with me for dragging their breakfast onto the floor. "Ow!" I shrieked as real pain stabbed through my wrist. "Let go!"

"Gimme yer bracelet," Lenore said, squeezing my hand. "Give it."

She didn't want my bracelet. She wanted to freaking break my hand.

I pulled back and gave her a side kick, but it was like kicking a tree, the woman was so big. She took it, then swung a thick fist at me. I ducked and people cheered.

"I said let go!" I shouted, throwing coffee in her face.

Lenore bellowed as her grip loosened, and I pulled away. Arms outstretched, she came at me. I ducked, scampering out from under her and slipping on eggs. I couldn't let this woman get a bear hug on me - she'd snap my spine.

Still howling, she turned to follow, moving remarkably fast. I hadn't wanted to hurt her, but I didn't have much choice anymore. Jumping onto the table, I fell into a fighting stance.

Lenore hesitated, her eyes flicking behind me. Taking a step back, she passively raised her hands, but it wasn't because of me. Too late, I turned.

Pain exploded at the back of my knees, so hard and fast that I couldn't breathe. I went down face-first. Tears blurred my vision, and I curled into the fetal position, trying to hold my knees. Someone had hit me from behind. Oh God, I'd never walk again.

"I's kill her! I's fucking kill her!" Lenore was screaming, and I looked past my stringy hair to see her being led away by two guards, submission holds on her with the help of a couple of sticks. Sure, big talker now that she couldn't do anything.

"Get up, Sunshine," someone said sarcastically, and I groaned when they pulled me up and dragged me between them. I couldn't straighten my legs. They hurt like hell. Apart from our table, the rest of the room was orderly. Noisy, yes, but no one was getting off their benches.

Mary held her narrow body with her skinny arms, scared. Charles wouldn't look up. But it was Ralph's expression that scared me. Terror was in his eyes, terror he couldn't express but was reliving. Not the medical wing. God, please. Not the medical wing.

"New girl making friends?" one of the guards said, letting go and shoving me into the wall before he jerked my arms behind me. "What is it they say about redheads?"

"The medical wing?" the other said, hesitating by a stairway going down. There was a cold draft coming up, stinking of fear and infection. God, no. They could do it, and it would be over. My life done. I'd be like Ralph, and all the magic in the world wouldn't be able to fix me.

I gathered myself to fight again, my relief almost making me cry when the first replied, "No. She's got someone from the mainland coming over, and they want her to be able to talk."

My relief was short lived. They want me to be able to talk? I wasn't getting a lobotomy because it might inconvenience someone?

The sound of links of steel ratcheting closed around my wrists was loud. I wanted to fight, but I could hardly move, and fear hit anew when they dragged me past my cell to another part of the prison. My heart pounded, and I struggled to get up, to do something! Being hurt and cuffed wasn't nearly as terrifying as the realization that these people could do anything - cut me up like they had Ralph - and no one would think twice, much less care.

The noise from the dining hall grew fainter, and it was just me and my jailers, dragging me backward over the concrete floor past a series of close-set metal doors. They faced a solid stone wall, and beyond that, the unseen ocean. My heart pounded, and adrenaline got me to my feet when they stopped so one guard could open a cell door. It took two of them to do it, one at the cell with me, and one at a remote panel. The sound of the creaking door chilled me, and I gritted my teeth against the pain in my knees when they started to buckle with my own weight.

"Enjoy the hole," the guard said, and he shoved me past an outer metal door and a second, standard barred door into a lightless five-by-nine box. I fell, vision graying from the pain in my knees. The barred door shut before I could even pull my face up.

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