PL closed the secret door to her room and removed her cloak and boots. Opening a floorboard stash, she dropped a bag of coins in next to eleven others. She now had enough to buy a medallion and her freedom from this accursed city. She closed the floorboard and shifted to another cache and brought out two tarnished mirrors. One more time, I just have to do this one more time. Dread crept up her spine as she hung the mirrors.
From the stash, she withdrew a man’s signet ring with a stylized P and L on top. A woman in white had given it to her, saying it belonged to her, before vanishing around a corner. The coat of arms on the side didn’t match any in the city of Angelica, but the ring was proof she had a family. My family will be loving and take care of me. How long have they been searching for me? I will find them, starting the day after tomorrow. She kissed it tenderly and set it on the floor in front of the mirror.
I can do this. Her hands shaking, she slowly unbuttoned her tunic and unwrapped her breasts. She raised her eyes to the mirror. I must do this. I can’t be discovered as cursed. Not when I’m so close. She looked down at herself. Ugly red weals of scar tissue layered and crisscrossed her body, the most prominent a trio of five-inch circular scars on her chest and abdomen. I’ve survived all of these, somehow. If only I remembered how I got them. I have to do this one more time. I must know who I am...PL felt a lump grow in the back of her throat as fear tingled in her toes.
Angling and adjusting the mirrors, the two one-inch growths coming from between her shoulder blades came into view. She rotated them and cringed. From the stash, she pulled out a round piece of wood and stuck it in her mouth. Next, she picked up a pair of blood-encrusted pruning shears.
Planting her feet firmly, she gently put the blades round a growth and took in a deep breath. She forced the shears closed with all her might. There was a sickly crunch as warm blood ran down her back.
All the air was sucked from PL’s lungs as the shears clattered to the floor. She collapsed to her knees and toppled forward, biting down hard on the wood causing it to splinter, stifling a scream as searing pain radiated from her back.
Tears filled PL’s eyes as she scrambled for the ring. Her fingers found it, and she clutched it to her as she concentrated on it to give her strength.
PL staggered to her feet, wiping at her tears. Once more. I can do it one more time. With a knot in her stomach, PL picked up the shears. Her hands shook as she put the second growth between the blades. Just one more time…She closed her eyes, bit her block, and cut.
PL crouched on a ledge under the gatehouse tower roof, hiding in the morning shadows. The gate marked the boundary between the districts Rosella and Nina. The city was a patchwork of ten oddly shaped districts. Some were more dangerous than others.
She watched the traffic for her employer. She didn’t know the history of the city, but for whatever reason, it had only one land and one water port of entry. She guessed it made it easier to control who came and went. Visiting nobles stayed in Rosella district, near the river. The land port of entry was on the opposite side of the city, requiring the nobles to travel through the rougher districts. Thieves and scoundrels would stop and rob an unprotected coach or worse.
PL had spent the last three weeks surveying the route. She watched each area’s daily routine to see what was ordinary. Knowing what was out of place had saved her and her employer more than once. She’d been out before dawn getting a last look at the first two districts. They weren’t the most dangerous, but you could never take chances. She obsessed over every detail to be able to predict and manipulate events.
The red and gold coach appeared from around the corner. It was moving just short of a gallop, and people scrambled out of the way. PL frowned. Being flashy and rude was a good way to gain unwanted attention. She couldn’t do anything about the flashy coach, but she could slow the driver.
Jumping from her ledge, she slid down the edge of the roof and dropped over the lip, then twisted, grabbed the lip, and dropped from the forty-foot height. Her feet caught a stone sticking out from the wall. She flipped backward, twisting in the air, and landed in the shotgun seat of the coach. The driver swore in surprise.
“Slow down,” PL ordered in a husky voice.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
PL didn’t recognize the man’s voice. It was rare to get a new driver, and they should have told her. It was possible this was a last minute change. It explained why he hadn’t known to expect her. “The one going to make sure you get to the city gate in one piece.”
“You were supposed to meet us when we left.”
“You are new then. The contract states I will get you through Nina, Nell, Cruz, and Ana districts to the gate. Do not stop, unless I tell you to. If I get off, I will catch up.”
“Pal, I don’t need help. I can protect my boss. I’ve got everything I need right here.” The man patted a lump under his jacket.
PL’s face didn’t portray the confusion and concern she felt. “I’ve been paid to get your master to the gate. I’ve never failed. Do as I say, and all will be fine.”
“Waste of money.”
PL ignored him and watched the world go by. The district of Nina had a mix of slums and industry. Wagons of all sizes, drawn by teams as large as ten horses, moved through the crowded boulevard. Porters, merchants, shoppers, and beggars filled the remaining space.
So far, everything looked as it should. The people were moving out of the way. The coach received the normal number of looks, and no one watched it for long.
The city slid by. They passed through the gate from Nina to Nell district. Middle-class apartments and businesses made up the bulk of the district. PL didn’t fear attack here, but she kept a watchful eye out for scouts.
Cruz district was the most popular place for attacks. Its twisting streets slowed traffic to a crawl and created hiding spots. The mixture of classes made it easy to slip in unknown persons.
With a swift stroke, PL drew her sword and smashed an arrow out of the sky. She stood up and knocked a second arrow down before it killed the driver. Hopping onto the roof of the coach, she caught a third, flaming arrow. Glass vials attached to the shaft carried some form of accelerant. It didn’t give any indication of the attackers’ intent, but it meant they weren’t amateurs. They had succeeded in making her reveal herself, but she knew what she faced.
PL jumped back down onto the driver’s bench. The driver held a crossbow trigger.
“Part of a weapon isn’t much use,” PL said.
“What in Neptune’s rings just happened?” the driver demanded.
“Bandits or assassins, I’m not sure which. Keep going.”
“Where are you going?”
“To catch one of our tormentors.”
“Sit down. You’re out of your mind.”
“Keep moving,” PL ordered as she jumped. She landed on a pole supporting the awning of a booth, then jumped between the booth support poles to the buildings beyond. Bounding up the side of a building using windows, ledges, and poles, she reached the rooftops. Sprinting along the spines of the wood and straw thatched roofs, she jumped over streets and alleys, leaving the coach behind her.
At the edge of an alley, she dropped straight down, balancing on a clothesline she spotted the man, right where she thought he would be. She dropped, jumped from a pile of goods, and landed on the back of the fleeing assassin.
The man tried to strike her, but PL hit him first. She opened his cloak to reveal a composite bow and arrows.
“Ouch. You should have worn a guard,” PL commented on his rolled up sleeve and burn mark on the man’s arm. She slammed his head against the cobblestone street to knock him out and then threw him in a pile of trash.
PL stowed the bow and arrows under her cloak and retraced her steps to the boulevard. Bounding over some booths, she landed on the barrels of a wagon and hopped to another wagon.
“Sorry,” she yelled to a driver as she jumped over him onto the back of his horse. She leaped between the horses to land back in the shotgun seat of the coach.
“Where’d you go?” the driver demanded.
“To get some help,” said PL. “Keep driving. Once we reach Cruz, be ready.”
“If we’re going to be attacked, I’m pulling over and waiting for backup.”
“There is no backup. That’s why our employer hired me.”
“Who the bloody hell are you, anyway?”
“A Lifesaver. Drive.”
“You aren’t from around here or anywhere. Not even the Emperor’s elite move like that.”
Who is he talking about? We don’t have an Emperor. The Viceroy governed the city, and he had no elite guards. “It doesn’t matter. Keep moving.”
The coach slowed to pass through the gate into Cruz district. The street narrowed, creating a bottleneck. The driver pulled on the reins to slow the horses.
“Keep moving. Push your way through,” said PL.
“Where? Or are you going to magically make a hole?”
“Make one,” PL ordered.
The driver snapped the reins and cut off another coach. Instead of going forward, the coach wedged between two wagons. A smoking canister appeared from under the wagon on PL’s side.
“Smoke,” PL yelled at the driver. When he hesitated, she grabbed the reins from his hands. She snapped them and pulled the horses to one side. Grabbing the whip, she snapped it several times over one of the wagon teams holding them together. The heavy draft horses lurched forward to the sound of wood scraping on wood. PL pulled the coach in behind the wagon as the other driver struggled to regain control of his team. Behind them, the bomb went off, filling the area with thick, acidic smoke. “Do what I tell you.”
“It was just smoke, not even a flash,” the driver said dismissively.
“The smoke is laced with a toxin. It will incapacitate anyone who breathes it in.”
“They’d do that to all those people?”
“Yes.” I’ve seen it before. “The path will wind back and forth. It’s possible we will be attacked by archers again.”
“Are you going to chase after them again?” the driver said with contempt.
“I do what is necessary,” said PL, as she watched every opening and rooftop for signs of trouble.
They made the first four turns and traffic moved steadily. Fifty yards ahead of them, a team’s lead horse reared and whined over the sound of hooves and wheels on stone. PL watched another wagon pull out into the street using the space created coming toward them. It might be nothing or not.
The new wagon contained a cargo of barrels. What drew her suspicion was they were stacked on end instead of on their sides. As the wagon closed on them, she reached out and grabbed the reins from the driver and yanked the horses to the right.
The sudden change of direction surprised the wagon’s driver, causing him to jerk his team. A dozen men climbing out of the barrels had their balance thrown off. The movement tipped the two barrels on the back of the wagon, causing the men inside to fall off the back. Four men leaped from the wagon onto the coach.
Standing in her seat, PL ignored the boarding party. She drew her bow and fired at the men recovering on the wagon. She hit four of the six men and the driver. The first boarding member went to strike her driver. PL blocked the attack with her bow and kicked the second man in the chest. He tumbled off the coach. She dropped down to duck a sword strike from the first man and kicked his feet out. Drawing an arrow, she plunged it into his neck.
Standing up, she blocked sword strikes from the remaining two men. She battled back and forth using the bow. She jumped straight up over the two men. Landing behind them, she flipped the bow over her head and caught one man’s head in it. She bent forward, lifting him off the coach. She pulled to one side, dragging the man over the side of the coach.
Spinning around, she hit the other man in the face. He rebounded and hit PL in the chest. She stumbled backward. A hand grabbed her ankle. One of the men she’d knocked off was climbing up the side of the coach. He pulled her leg out from under her. Her chin hit the roof, making her see stars. She caught the roof, saving her from being crushed by the coach’s wheel.
A heavy boot stomped on PL’s fingers. She gritted her teeth until a sword came down on her hand. She let go and caught the mudguard of the coach. Her feet dragged next to the giant rear wheel. With her right hand damaged, she couldn’t pull herself up. With only one option, she let go. Her head bounced off the cobblestone as her left hand grabbed the wooden axle sticking through the wheel. She used it to flip up and over the coach, landing with both feet in the middle of an attacker’s back. He flew over the driver’s seat and under the coach.
PL turned as the last man pulled his sword from the driver’s back and tossed the body off the coach. She fired an arrow into the back of the man’s head, then jumped down and grabbed the reins. Looking over her shoulder, she snapped them hard as a pair of horsemen came up from behind. Tying off the reins, she fired an arrow, hit the first rider.
Two arrows hit her at the same time. One pierced her side, the other her neck. She collapsed to one knee and put her hand to her throat. Blood trickled between her fingers, but the arrowhead had missed everything major. A wave of energy washed over her as the shock left and she recovered. Adjusting her movements for the arrow in the neck, she searched for the archers. PL spotted an archer as he lined up a shot on her. She snapped up her bow and fired. Her arrow hit the other bowman in the eye. Hopping sideways, another arrow landed where she’d been. Spinning her body to the right, she saw a head duck into a window.
The second rider pulled alongside the coach and swung at her with a sword. She slammed her foot down on the blade. When the rider went to yank it from under her, she lifted her foot. The man lost his balance and tipped sideways in the saddle. PL reached out and hooked the man with her bow. She yanked him to her, smashing his head against the side of the coach then swinging her foot down and shoved him down farther. The saddle slipped down the horse’s side. The rider’s horse skidded to a stop, dropping the rider to the ground.
PL turned back to the last archer’s location, but it was vacant. She jumped back into the driver’s seat, picked up the reins, and snapped them to make the horses move faster. Ignoring the pain from her wounds, she guided the coach through the narrow streets.
The gate for Ana district came into view. PL slowed the coach and pushed her way into the line to enter the governmental district. The coach moved through the gate without incident. She rolled sideways to dodge an arrow. PL stood and spun, pulling her bow out. Gritting her teeth, she pulled the arrow from her side. Nocking it, PL fired. The last archer tumbled from a hidden spot high on the gate.
Sitting back down, she picked up the reins and tried to look as inconspicuous as possible as she guided the coach through the wide streets, scanning for threats. PL turned into the city gate plaza and pulled the coach into a parking spot. A handler took control of the horses. Reaching under her hood, she snapped off the tip and fletching of the arrow in her neck, leaving the shaft in place. Dropping the two pieces to the ground, PL climbed down and walked away.
“Hey, where you going?” the handler called after her.
PL pulled her cloak around her and vanished into the crowd.
The door to the coach opened and a woman wearing a black uniform with silver trim and piping exited. On her stiff collar, silver Eyes of Providence pins denoted her as a Political Bureau officer. She wore a black garrison cap with five stars in a circle around a globe on the side. Her piercing dark brown eyes took in everything. A ring on her left hand sparkled. She turned and helped a second woman out.
The second woman took the first’s hand and stepped out. She wore a navy blue uniform with gold trim and piping. Four stars on each high collar denoted her rank. Her razor cut blonde hair sat under a peaked cap. A gold globe and anchor on the front denoted her military specialization. On her left hand, she wore a ring that matched the first woman’s.
“Well, Admiral, what do you think?” The woman in black said in a harsh Russian accent.
“It doesn’t look like she’s lost a step. If anything, I’d say her fighting skills have improved since she can’t rely on her abilities and powers,” the Admiral said in a formal American accent.
“Very true. I think we should meet with Kita. I’m sure the promise of leaving her prison for a short time will be enough to convince her.”
“I don’t know, Galina. She can be stubborn.”
“Do not worry, pretty Marine, if she can’t be shown the light, then she can continue rotting in the dark.”
The Admiral nodded. “She’s still one tough bitch. I think even back then an arrow to the neck would have made me pause for more than a second.”
“Enough work for today, Rene. She’s going to need several days to recover. Let us worry about her later. We are here on holiday, after all. Let’s see what our mock medieval city has to offer. I understand it is an experience.”
“There are plenty of other things I’d rather experience.”
“This is as far away from a warship as I can get you.”
“Reports of aliens are coming in from the frontier.”
“You’d rather worry about shadows in space than spend time with me? I’m hurt,” Galina said with a teasing smile.
“Sorry, it’s just strange.”
Galina raised an eyebrow. “We’ve seen stranger.”
“Yeah, and we just let her walk away,” Rene answered, looking in the direction PL had gone.
“Come, pretty Marine. I got us a room overlooking the water.”
“Pulling strings, General?” Rene chuckled.
“Rank has perks and being second in the Bureau has many,” said Galina, taking Rene’s hand and kissing the tough Marine on the cheek. “And you are a wonderful perk,” she added in a whisper.
“It took me long enough to get my head out of my ass.”
“I know Marines. Sometimes you have to hit them over the head a dozen times before it gets through. And, the higher the rank the harder you have to hit.”
Rene laughed. “And here I thought manipulation was your game over brute force.”
“You don’t think I’ve been manipulating you with this body?”
“Maybe…Did Catalina make the trip?” Rene asked with a lustful look.
“Why do you think we’re by the water,” Galina answered in a soft, sensual Russian accent.
“Marines are so easy,” Galina said, rolling her eyes playfully.
Rene took Galina’s hand. “Lead on, General.”
Together they walked off toward another coach to take them back across the city.
Not far away in the shadows, a tiny woman in a white cloak watched them leave. She turned and collapsed into a point of light and vanished.
PL exited an alley close to the Arabian Canteen in the Amber district. According to the source she’d paid, the medallion maker was in the back, but not for long as he constantly moved. Keeping her head down, she worked her way through the fringe of the crowd.
She saw two noblewomen in uniform: one wore black and the other navy blue. No escorts or guards accompanied them. It’s strange for them to be unguarded. PL glanced at the crowd. When she looked back, they were gone.
PL put them out of her mind and cut across the busy boulevard. With her head turned, PL bumped into someone.
PL looked up. It was the noblewoman in the black uniform. “My apologies, my lady. I’m sorry for being so careless.” How did I not see her?
“It’s all right, Raven.” Galina smiled. “My mistake. Please, let us make it up to you. Come, have a drink.”
Raven? Whatever. I need to go. “I’m sorry, my lady. I must meet a friend of mine.”
“It won’t take a minute. We’re visiting, and I’m sure you can tell us what to see.”
“I can’t, my lady. This is a very important meeting,” PL protested weakly.
“They can wait,” Galina said firmly. She took PL by the arm, guided her to a coach, and pushed her in next to Rene.
PL felt a jab in the arm, and the world went dark.
PL woke slumped over a table in a bar. Her head rang like a bell. She sat up in a bar she didn’t recognize.
“Get a good nap?” The bartender said with a laugh.
“You had a right good time with your friends and then passed out. They said you’d cover the tab.”
PL reached into her cloak, searching for her pouches full of money meant for the medallion maker. When she didn’t find any, she searched the ground frantically.
“Someone must have taken my purse.”
The bartender came around the bar and leaned over her. “You downed a lot of beer, girl. I don’t give it away for free.”
“I have money at home. I can go and get some.”
“I’ve heard that one before, sweetie. Maybe we can come to another arrangement.” He went to lift her head, but PL slapped his hand.
“I will bring you the money. You have my word.”
“You’re not leaving, girl. You pay me now or when they finish with you.” He motioned to a table of five men standing up.
“Don’t do this.”
The bartender smiled down at her lustfully.
“I’m not all that pretty.”
“It doesn’t matter what you look like. It’s what’s between your legs that matters.”
PL slammed her foot down on the bartender’s, stood up tipping the table over, and then jumped backward onto the chair. Balancing on the seat and back, she rode it to the floor, kicked it up into her hands and smashed it across the bartender’s head and shoulder.
PL rolled forward onto her back next to the table. With both feet, she kicked the table at the five men. Flipping back to her feet, she jumped onto the bar and kicked mugs of beer at her assailants as she ran down the bar, and somersaulted from the bar toward the door.
A sixth man met her at the door and lunged. She twirled, flaring her cloak, causing the man to miss. PL kicked him in the butt, sending him crashing to the floor. She dashed out the door into a back alley, then jumped, caught a ledge, climbed to the roof, and sprinted across the rooftops toward home.
Dropping down from the roof, PL caught the ledge to her window. She entered the window and slid into her room. Looking around her room, she gasped. All of her stashes were open.
She dove for the nearest stash and found it empty. She scrambled to the second one. It too was empty. Everything was gone—her bedroll, food, sword, bow, money, and most importantly, the ring. For the first time ever she felt like crying. It would take years to make that much money again, and she would be stuck in this nightmare of a city. Unable to bear the thought, PL collapsed onto the floor and sobbed.
“Why are you crying?” a sweet, but sinister, feminine voice asked.
PL looked up and frantically tried to wipe her tears away. “Who’s there?” she called softly.
“Why are you crying?” the voice said again. “Did a friend or family member die? Did your partner or lover leave you?”
“I…No…I…” PL looked around the room.
“I’m not out there. I’m in your head.”
“No, you’re not,” PL said aloud, putting her hands over her ears.
“I am. Go ahead and plug your ears. It won’t matter.”
“No…No…No…” PL cringed. “I can’t have another curse. Why now? What did I do? I can’t afford to be cleansed.”
“You’re not cursed, far from it,” said the voice. “In fact, you’re blessed. I admit this is probably my fault. I told Galina and Rene where to stick their offer.”
“What offer? Who are you talking about?”
“Those two women who abducted you. You’re living in an elaborate prison, sweetie. Built to hold us.”
“Why? What did I do?”
The voice chuckled. “It’s not what you did, but what I did.”
“Then what do they want with me?”
“Oh, to be young and naïve again…Nah, forget that. You and I, child, are the same person. You are just me, missing the good stuff. And here I am.”
PL shook her head violently. “No. I can’t be going crazy. I can’t.”
“You’re not going crazy,” said the voice. “This city was built to hold our body. It was patterned after our youth. I wish we could remember more, but those two twits have everything sealed.”
“Why build a city to hold one person?”
“I don’t know. I can’t remember what we did. I only know this much because those twits kept running their mouths during our little lunch session.”
“Is that why I blacked out?”
“Yes. Galina and Sheppard shut you down and brought me out. If you’re curious, they wanted us to fight for them in some war. They said they have the power to give back some of our abilities. I told them they could go slag themselves. That’s when they tried to lock me back up and bring you back.”
“Why didn’t they lock you up?” said PL.
“Because they think we’re a moron, that’s why. I don’t know how they did it the first time. We were probably unconscious, but this time I kept the door from locking all the way.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Our mind is a hard place to control. I just thought about something we did today. It acted like a handgrip. All I had to do was pull, but many memories are still locked up. We’ll have to figure out how to free them.”
“Why do I want to do that?”
“You’re not interested in where you came from and what you’ve done?”
“I…Sometimes,” said PL.
“You don’t ever wonder why you’re so fast and strong or about your perfect balance. Why you're so skilled with a sword, bow, and hand-to-hand combat? You’re not curious about those nubs growing from your back? All those scars came from somewhere. Did you ever wonder why you liked watching the pretty girls and ignore the men? There’s a lot to us. I don’t know much more than our name, Katrina Marie Logine, or simply Kita. What have you been calling us?”
“That’s unusual. Why?”
PL explained about the ring.
“We have to get it back,” said Kita.
“Why? We don’t know who has it.”
“Everything in this city is planned. Whoever gave us that ring wasn’t playing by the rules. It might have been why this place was raided. If it’s important to them, then it’s important to us.”
“But we don’t know where it is.”
“If I was a betting person I’d say Galina has it stashed somewhere until they depart. They don’t leave for two more days. So we have to act fast. Where do her Political Bureau cronies stay?”
“I don’t even know what those are.”
“Where do the guard details of the nobles stay when they’re in town?”
“There’s a barracks in Ana district.”
“No, too far,” said Kita. “They’re by the water.”
“Then Roo district.”
“Those names sound familiar,” Kita mused. “Then we start there.”
“We’ll never make it before curfew. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow.”
“Since when do we worry about the rules?”
“If we get caught they’ll kill us,” said PL.
“Then make sure we don’t get caught.” Kita sighed. “I can’t believe I was ever this young and cowardly.”
“I’m not a coward.”
“Ok, you’re right. Not-a-Coward just fears getting into trouble. You’ve got the skills. Just let them try and stop you.”
“Why should I do this?”
“You want to sit here and cry?” said Kita. “Or do you want to get back at who did this?”
“That’s what you want.”
“You want out of this city. Together, we’ll get out.”
PL stood up. “What have I got to lose?”
“Nothing,” Kita replied. “And everything to gain.”
PL hid in the shadows watching a patrol. Her destination lay across the street.
“Why do we want the apothecary shop?” she asked Kita.
“I thought we were breaking into the guardhouse.”
“What do you do to get in and out without being detected?” said Kita.
“I—I don’t know. Knock them all out from behind?”
Kita chuckled. “That works if you have the element of surprise and few enemies. My guess is the hidden area has at least three men on station and houses twenty or more. That doesn’t include the city guard on the street level. According to you, that’s sixty-six, half on patrol, half off duty, and five on duty around the station.”
“All good reasons to not go in.”
“What we need might be in there, so we go in there,” Kita retorted.
“So, what do we need in the apothecary shop?”
“Chemicals and other supplies to knock out our enemies and create diversions.”
“You know how to do that?”
“We know how to do that.”
“Why do we know how?”
“I can’t recall,” said Kita. “I’m sure there’s a reason.”
“Are you sure this ring is worth it?”
“It was given to us for a reason. Let’s go find out why.”
“But, I’ve looked at it a thousand times. What has changed?”
“I’m here,” said Kita.
PL watched the patrol turn the corner.
“Let’s go,” Kita ordered.
PL darted across the street. She jumped from a street vendor table to an awning, landing on a windowsill. The window was locked. She jumped to the next window, but it was locked, too.
“They’re all going to be locked,” Kita told her.
“So how do we get in?”
“Locks are only to keep amateurs and opportunists out. We’re professionals.”
“Because we know how.”
“Take a piece of straw and slip it between the windows to lift the latch,” said Kita.
“That’s the professional way?”
“The professional way is whatever works and doesn’t get us caught. And, why did you break into the second story?”
“I always travel by rooftops,” said PL. “And there aren’t any hidden windows in the back.” She slipped inside, tiptoeing past a sleeping couple to the stairs. She stepped on a board, and it creaked. The man in the bed snorted and then rolled over.
“I’ve got to teach you to walk, too?” Kita hissed.
“I’m not a thief,” PL hissed aloud.
“Who’s there?” the man from the bed asked sleepily.
“What do I do? There’s no place to hide,” said PL.
“Next time, remember you’re talking to a voice in your head and not to the guy in the bed,” said Kita. “Jump up to the ceiling above the stairs and brace yourself.”
“Won’t I get caught?”
“Nobody looks up.”
PL bounced off the wall and braced herself against the wall and ceiling. The groggy man struck a candle and stumbled under her. She turned up her nose at the smell while shutting her eyes from the blinding candle.
“Weird. Our eyes should have adjusted automatically,” said Kita.
“What do you mean?” said PL.
“Never mind. Let’s let this fool go back to bed,” Kita said as the man thumped back up the stairs. He blew out the candle and went back to bed.