As soon as I took a sip, I realized it was poisoned. Not that I expected anything else from this man, but it still made me curse inwardly at my own stupidity. I held the bitter tea on the inside of my cheek, trembling with the effort not to let even a drop slip down my throat.
“Isn’t that better?” Mr. Gates asked. “Once you’ve calmed down, I think you’ll realize that a civilized conversation is —”
I hurled myself against the confines of my chains and spat the tea on his face. The moisture glinted on his skin. It didn’t seem like anything that sparkled should belong in a room so dank and gray, barely large enough for the two of us to sit, yet here we were.
Mr. Gates’ lips twitched, but he refused to show his annoyance as he dabbed the tea off his face with a silken handkerchief.
“Sasha, we’ve talked about this,” Mr. Gates said. “If you want me to take you seriously, you have to stop acting like a child.”
“And if you want me to talk, you have to stop treating me like a prisoner.” I yanked on the cuffs pinning my arms and legs to the wooden chair, which creaked underneath me. With enough momentum, there was a chance I could smash the rickety piece of furniture, or at least snap off a leg.
“You’re not my prisoner.” Mr. Gates folded his hands on the table between us. I wasn’t sure why it was there in the first place. Nothing sat on it. Maybe it was just a way to physically represent the divide between us.
“Then this is a ****** way to treat your guest.”
“You’re free to go anytime, so long as you answer my questions.”
I ground my teeth together, snarling the words like a rabid dog. “I don’t know where he is.”
“My answer won’t change.”
Mr. Gates stood from his chair as if it had burned his rear end. He loosened his tie as he paced the cell. It was a short distance from one wall to the other, so it only took him two strides to make it to the end.
“Julian Walker is a traitor to this operation, and so are you.”
“Fine, then kill me already! It’s not like I’m any use to you anymore.”
With a turn so violent it audibly whipped his coat through the air, Mr. Gates slammed his fist on the table. So that’s why it was there: for pure intimidation.
“You have information I need, and if you refuse to give it to me of your own free will, you give me no choice but to torture it out of you.”
A cold sensation trickled across my skin, so real part of me wondered if it was in my imagination or not. My icy voice matched the chill I felt. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
We stared at each other long enough that I heard the seconds tick by from the clock in the hallway outside. After eleven ticks, Mr. Gates left the cell without any warning, throwing the door shut behind him. The sound reverberated in my stomach, making me keenly aware of the fact that I hadn’t eaten anything in three days.
Three days in here. Three days of questioning, of leaving me in silent solitude, and now of poison attempts. No doubt that tea was laced with some kind of drug meant to make me compliant. I’d seen it done before.
I gave the chains another tug, but nothing budged. Mr. Gates had worked with me long enough to know what kind of restraints would hold me. And I’d been under his employ long enough to know how long he would remain patient with me before resorting to other tactics.
Three days. If I survived five, it would be some kind of record.
The explosion sent my chair flying across the cell, and my first thought wasn’t about the stinging scrape on my cheek or the ringing in my ears. Instead, it was, I was right. This chair was fragile with the right amount of momentum. The splintered legs laid scattered around my limp body, though the chains still remained.
As the wall to my right crumbled, a figure stepped through it, his arms and gloved hands raised above his head to protect himself from the falling debris. He coughed up the clouds of dust he’d inhaled from the blast.
“Sasha?” His voice was muffled.
“Here,” I choked back, but I could barely hear myself speak. The stone that fell to the floor did so with dull thuds. Whether my hearing loss was temporary or permanent didn’t stop the smile from spreading across my face as Julian came into focus.
“It’s been a while,” he said with that crooked smile of his. He wiggled a key into the locks of my chains and pulled the cuffs free. Angry red marks shone on my wrists and ankles.
“And whose fault is that, jerk?” I wheezed as he pulled me to my feet. It felt like shards of the wall had embedded themselves in y throat.
“Yeah, yeah, you can yell at me all you want once we get you out of here.” Julian twined his fingers through mine. His leather gloves were worn from days of work and sun. I wondered just how much had happened in the three days since we were separated. “Any idea where the boss man went?”
“Not my boss anymore,” I said. We stumbled through the hole Julian had created. “I quit, effective immediately.”
Julian laughed, and even without my full hearing, the vibrations sent warmth through my body. “That’s my girl.”
Three men strapped with heavy artillery rounded the corner at the opposite end of the hall. They shouted at each other, the words unintelligible to my ears.
“And that’s our cue,” I said. “Let’s go.”
We took off, down the hall and out of sight.