Consequences Part 8

October 14th, 2011 by Wordsman

“Hang on a second.  I don’t remember ever hearing this thing.  It just sort of appeared in my head.”  Denial: the first stage of grief.

The woman frowned.  It was not a good look for her, though she wasn’t terribly nice to look at in the first place.  “That’s the part I’m not sure about.”

“But it was you, right?  You’re the one that hit me.  It didn’t start until after that, and then it went away when I came back.”  Stage Two: Blame.

The frown deepened, turning her wrinkles into great valleys of consternation.  “But it’s the Song of Mastery.  I didn’t sing anything.  I wasn’t trying to put this on you.  You can’t force a guy to do what you want just by hitting him.  The world would be a much simpler place if that was true.  Not a very nice place, either.”

“Whatever.  The details aren’t important.”  Stage Three: Bargaining (the lawyers are best at this one).  “You said that if I do what you say, it’ll all go away?”

She looked up at him.  Months of making her pitch and constantly getting rejected had caused her to seriously doubt her ability to judge people, if she had ever had much of one in the first place.  Was this kid any different?  The only way to find out was to try him.

“Seems that way.”

“Great.  You’ve got a deal.”  He extended his hand, knowing full well that a handshake is as legally binding as an unsigned contract or a pinky swear.  He wasn’t actually planning to be ordered around by a madwoman; he would simply play along until a better option presented itself.  Much to his chagrin, Peter was having a great deal of trouble thinking up better options.

The woman smiled but did not take the hand.  Peter retracted it awkwardly.  Then he told himself that he probably didn’t want to shake hands with someone who appeared to spend all her time sitting on the floor of a subway station.  “What do you want me to do?”

“It’s simple,” she lied.  It was an obvious lie, one that Peter would have recognized even if he hadn’t been training for the legal profession or grown up with a younger sibling.  “Get me out of here.”

Peter looked around.  No forbidding iron gates or barred doors had appeared in the station since he was last there.  Could it be that the woman couldn’t walk?  No, she had been capable—more than capable—of moving around that morning.  He rolled up his sleeve and saw that there was a definite mark where she had seized his arm.  If she was enfeebled, then he had all the muscular strength of a gelatin mold.

“I don’t understand.”

The woman continued to smile.  “I don’t understand it completely myself, but I can tell you that it’s going to involve at least two steps.  The second one will be a bit . . . complicated, but the first part should be pretty clear-cut.  I need you to get me out of these.”

She shifted uncomfortably around and gestured toward her back with her chin.  Peter noticed for the first time the she was sitting not only next to a pillar but also right up against a garbage can.  The “can” was not really a can at all, but simply a bag ringed by a framework of long metal bars.  In between the bars—and, at either end, around the woman’s wrists—someone had placed a pair of handcuffs.

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