Rose’s throat was parched, and her tongue was dry as sandpaper. She licked her lips, but there was barely a drop of an oasis pool inside the desert of her mouth. Instead, she produced a sticky coating she could barely tolerate. She attempted to elevate her upper body with her forearms and realized she couldn’t separate them. Rope dug into her wrists as she tried to pry them loose…and a blazing sharp pain seared across the back of her head. It was clear she was tied. She moved her hands toward the pain and placed her fingers upon a matted portion of hair and dried blood. She hissed and lifted one leg upward to plant her sole on the ground. However, that motion too was impossible. For she was bound at her heels, as well.
It was pitch black. “Hel…hroah…hello? Is anyone there?” The sound of her voice made her cringe in disgust.
“Ah, my cell mate, so glad you’re alive.” The caustic remark, empty of the worded merriment, thudded from her right.
Rose mumbled, “Who are you?”
“Does it matter? We’re both awaiting execution. I’d rather you be first so I have a little more time to live, a little more time to ensure I do.”
Rose shut her eyes and sighed inwardly. “Agnes, are you all right?”
“Just peachy, thank you.”
Rose hoisted herself upright and placed her bound hands in her lap. “We’ve been looking for you.”
“We?” A dulcet tone of hope rang from her lips.
“Dave and I, we’ve been worried.”
“You? Worried? I don’t think so. This was not your idea, was it? You helped because he was worried about me. What does that tell you?”
Rose dug her nails into the tender flesh of her palm. “He’s an honourable man, and he cares about those he calls ‘friend.’”
“Friend…what an interesting term, isn’t it? Have you ever called someone ‘friend’ who you were attracted to but you couldn’t sample more because you were duty-bound to another?”
Rose halted the spiteful words she was about to speak because, inevitably, the question posed was dangerously close to truth. She bit her lip in frustration. Had she painted Lord Faversham in, perhaps, too much of a flirtatious light unconsciously? “You read my letters.” Perhaps, Agnes had done Rose a favour after all. Would Dave have read between the lines and thought her heart was captured elsewhere? Had it been at all?
“And who’s to say that Dave didn’t feel for me what you felt while you were away?”
Was that blood underneath Rose’s finger nails? Agnes was saved from an attack only because Rose couldn’t see an inch in front of her. “Were we right? Is your brother the one who took you?”
“Did you see anyone else? Someone he might be working with?”
“If he does work with someone else, I have not seen them.”
“Where are we?”
“I don’t know for sure, but it smells like the cellar below his saloon, but…”
Rose sniffed. A yeasty stench pervaded. “You’re right, I mean it does smell like beer.”
“I suppose you’ve already tried yelling for help.”
Her usually haughty tone stooped to vulnerability. “I did for a good many hours…despite the gag. I was going to say I don’t think we’re under the saloon after all. Someone would’ve heard me. I think he wants me to think that’s where I am.
“I should tell you that on pain of death you won’t yell. He found me trying to yell, and I paid dearly for it. You can’t see it now, but…my back is covered in…in….” She began to sob uncontrollably.
Ashamed of her thoughts of hatred toward Agnes a few moments ago, Rose whispered, “I’m so sorry. He hit you, didn’t he? Not with his hands but with a stick?”
A fresh wave of sobs crashed to her right.
“Your brother is an animal.”
“Why do you even care what he does to me?”
“Despite how I feel about you, I am called to love those around me even though they are my enemies.”
“Doesn’t it apply to him?”
“I…” Could Rose love him though he had taken thirteen lives which were not his to take, nor were they his to beat, to destroy? Perhaps she could learn Agnes’s secret. “How can you?”
“He’s my brother. And..I don’t think it’s all his fault. My ma said he had been touched by the fairies when he was a wee one.”
“Everybody has a choice.”
“Do they? Can ya truly be sure?”
“You’ve got quite the penchant for asking questions in answer of questions. Is there nothing else you know that could help us get justice for all those he’s killed.”
“He keeps trophies.”
“What kind of trophies?”
“I’ve glimpsed it. It’s a box o’ bones. Looked to be about thirteen o’ them.”
“Where does he keep it?”
“Down here with us.”
Finding the evidence without a shred of light would do no good. They needed to escape. “Are there any sharp tools down here we could use to break our ropes?”
“I’ve been down here a week, running my hands over every inch of this place, at least I think I have. There’s nothing.”
Rose’s stomach rumbled as low, grovelling pain spread throughout her stomach.
Agnes commented, “I’m not sure how often he brings me water and food since time has no meaning in this forsaken hole. He brings water around more often then food so be ready to be hungry for days.”
Gravel crunches underfoot. Time is of the essence, and stealth a best friend. One more block and the Mountie will know his main suspect and follow up on what has been accomplished.
A stone skittering to the side…not from his boot…a whirl and the catching of a fist. Though it’s a good defence, there are too many coming from all sides, perhaps four? The whoosh of a knife being unsheathed and its blade glinting despite the dark night…
Time crawled. Like the tortoise who eventually won the race, so would Time fulfill its due end. Rose moved around to switch positions when her body succumbed to a crick. She and Agnes hardly spoke to each other…at first. But as it seemed that help was a dream away and there was no viable option of escape, Rose’s defences slowly crumbled as she thought to herself how much more pleasant it would be to die peaceably with her fellow prisoner than to die bitter with the last human she would ever talk to. “Why did you stay with your brother for so long?”
“Where would I go? Back home? Nagh! There’s nothing for me there. When Dave came and…” Her answer was interrupted by the prison door opening. A little light…the glow of a dying sun tried to dispel the hold of darkness.
Rose’s eyes shut tight against the weak light. Her lashes fluttered, and her eyes moistened.
A man spit, “Agh, yer awake. Here, Agnes.” He handed her a few sips of water. “Still tryin’ to decide what to do with you. Can’t have you yammerin’ about what I’ve done. And you…” he stalked toward Rose as a predator does toward his prey. “You think you can ruin everything I’ve worked for, don’t you? Think yer so smart?” He offered the cup and held it as she relished the cool water sliding down her throat. A few seconds of bliss turned upside down when he tipped the entire cup of water down her clothes. “Hahaha! You’ll get what’s comin’ to you soon enough just like your man did.”
“Sean, you didn’t! You said…!” Agnes’s expression of sheer murder propelled her bloodcurdling scream, like one of a wounded animal. Her outburst wiped the smirk off Sean’s face. She lunged toward him, teeth bared, and seething a language Rose couldn’t understand.
Rose attempted to gasp for air. The stars swimming in her vision crashed until even the faint light she could see went black until.… “I…What did you do?” She growled.
Sean’s sadistic smile unnerved her to the core as he held up a finger and mimed a slicing motion across his neck. “Here’s something to prove it.” He held up a finger bone. He threw his head back in laughter as he plunked upstairs, and the door was dead bolted.
It wasn’t the water soaking her blouse that made her cold. No, it was the possibility that Dave…that she wouldn’t see that smirk which irked her and made her warm at the same time, that his voice would no more soothe her mind when her heart was in turmoil, that she would not taste his lips again. “He…he can’t be dead.”
“Once Sean lets me loose, I’m going to kill him with my bare hands.”
“I would be able to feel it, no? If he were dead, I’d know…”
“He’s gone too far…” Agnes seethed.
Rose snapped. “He crossed the line a long time ago! Now do you understand why I can’t love my enemy…not after this.” She believed she had no reason to make peace with her inmate, no reason to look forward to living a life. Her life would be taken at the hands of another, and somehow she was at peace knowing that this would probably be her last day. She would join her beloved in death.
Rose and Agnes didn’t attempt speaking each other again. What seemed like days passed, and Rose waited for Sean to murder her. Instead, Sean provided his prisoners with a morsel of bread each. This time he didn’t speak. His eyes lit up with the fires of hatred as soon as he glimpsed Rose. There was no gloating, no triumph. His shoulders were hunched as though a huge weight had been placed upon him.