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The nightclub was contorted with heavy smoke that swirled around her nose and burned her eyes. She could barely see the fools who moved along the dance floor and bought spiked drinks at the bar. They weren’t attached to life. They seemed to be a dream, and strings of smoke pulled at their shapes to bring them to another world…. A blur fell down…ouch. He was pleading for a headache in the morning, if dawn ever came for him.
Outside there were laborers, unwillingly led by the harnesses of their imprisonment. The overseer treated them like animals. The edgy crates they were loading into the monstrous, dark trucks read BARLEY on the sides, but she knew better. Mr. Brittle was finally sending out the scourges—the product that would make him billions and cultivate disaster in the process.
Mr. Brittle was a powerful businessman. He was a profound, arrogant chap whose life revolved around money, pleasure, business, and revenge. He owned the city, if one could call it that. She called it a derogatory and ominous dystopia, bridled by a pompous, pugnacious reproductive organism and conceited brain.
The sentry blocked her before she could persist up the red stairway to the exclusive rooms. He held his lumpy hand in front of her at a very inappropriate level, and she glared at him darkly.
“You can’t go up.” He said in a deep monotone, one she could hear over the booming music that made the room spin. Of course, Mr. Brittle was probably lying on his bed in a confusion of sheets with his…sweets….
“What, you think you could become one of his clandestine shields? One of the wasted men he uses as entertainment to laugh at death while he narrowly escapes? He’d only show you slavery and anger, and you’d be dead within a week. Let me up.” She shot daggers archly.
“You can’t go up.” He repeated in the same monotone, but she saw him flinch at the iciness of her words, and now sneered at him.
“I’d leave right now. Or I’ll come for you next.”
He escalated in confidence. “You can’t go up.” He said yet again, and his thoughts rendered on his scarred, colossal face. If I can get rid of you, then I’ll be in Mr. Brittle’s inner circle….
She let out one skeptical laugh. “You don’t really think you’ll impress him by getting rid of me, do you? He’s tough to please. Besides, he’ll want me alive.” Oh, how she wished he would let her go up. Before long they’d make a scene, and that would ruin her plans. Her one shot, gone awry…she cringed at the thought. Anger rippled through her.
“You can’t—” He was about to say that irritating phrase again, but she grabbed his salivating, bottom lip.
“Listen to me, you ignorant ogre. You are going to let me go upstairs. You are going to let me see him. You aren’t going to escort me. You aren’t going to follow me. If you disobey anything I say, I. Will. Blow. Your. Brains. Out. Got that?” She asked, carefully carving each word as it left her mouth.
Suddenly, he shoved her. “You can’t go up!” He shouted this time.
She sighed. Now she had to act quickly. He was tall—she jumped up and precariously aimed her elbow for the shifting skin covering his temple. The impact was small. The effect was immense.
He fell to the ground with a THUMP.
She didn’t waste time lingering there—she ran up the stairs. Pictures lined the walls of Mr. Brittle’s family. The ladies with their pearls and red lipstick. The gents in their black suits. Always black. Of course, she didn’t see herself anywhere on the wall.
Soon she was recumbent against the wall adjacent to the sliding glass door. It was cracked open a notch—perfect.
She was about to act, but then his words caught her and held her steady.
No, he wasn’t in bed. He was playing billiards in his slippers with close business partners—ones he no doubt meant to kill afterward—with female waitresses providing scotch and tough cigars. There was one already bouncing in Mr. Brittle’s mouth, and a small drink with three ice cubes. In his other hand he held the cue.
The restricted room was warm, but he made it chilly and bitter.
“Well, I just don’t know, Hayes. If it don’t work, I’ll—I’ll give you my income and my niece.” He said over the other conversations in his relaxed accent. It was counterfeit, but the others didn’t know that. His real voice was sharp and unnerving….
And there was no way he had any authority over his niece.
Richardson, one man she was able to identify, scratched. The white ball went into the pocket, and Brittle took it out, placing it on the other side. He vigilantly leaned down, placing the cue stick between his spindly index and his stubby thumb. With a smirk on his face, he hit the white ball, which collided with the 9 ball. It eased into the pocket. He straightened up and complacently ran his hand through his combed, grizzled hair.
“Ah, well, it’ll be all right, Richardson.” He tried to plaintively mollify, but even she could see through the web he was making. “It’ll especially be okay once everyone gets their barley.”
The others laughed and then continued with their small talk.
She watched a little longer, when finally it was Brittle’s turn to hit the 8 ball into the pocket and win the game.
Now was her chance. She peered through the glass. No one could see her; she was disguised by the shadows of the red hallway, red like the blood he’d spilled. She could see him clearly, though. He was definitely Satan’s spawn. He had cheated her out of cash, love, friends, family…almost everything. Just for that, everyone hated her now. All because of his blinding egocentricity.
She needed vengeance. It was her turn for revenge. Her hand carefully groped for the handle at her hips. She was handy with a gun, at least.
He was bending down to take his win. How nice. She would shoot his cue first and then, when he looked up at her malevolent gaze, she would shoot him. He would see it coming, but not have the chance to do anything about it.
Blood pulsed through her veins, feeding her anger. Slowly, she raised her gun, the barrel thrust through the crack of the door. Her hands were shaking, but no apprehension could stop her now.
Suddenly, her brittle uncle looked up at her—