Dave was starting to like the concrete floor. Sure, it was hard against his skull and back, pressing each link of chain further into his flesh. And yeah, it was filthy. But letting his muscles go slack as he rested on it felt like a little slice of heaven.
He didn’t know how long he’d been lying there. He didn’t know how many times Giordano and Werecat had dunked him. It felt like it had been a lot of times, but he didn’t want to think about it. If he could have found the strength to lift his head and look at the tub, a shudder of revulsion would have passed through him. He forced himself not to think, not to remember in excruciating detail the feeling of water up his nose and rough hands on his head. He wanted to lie on the floor in a haze and think of nothing at all.
He hadn’t talked. Or at least, he didn’t think he had. He would remember, wouldn’t he? So he had to brace himself. Because when Val came back and tried to get into his head again, he was going to be tempted to tell her everything as long as they stopped, as long as they never brought him anywhere near water again. He couldn’t let himself do that. They were going to kill him anyway, and he didn’t want to die betraying everything he stood for. David Del Toro might dread what came next, but White Knight was strong. He had to be White Knight.
A cough wracked his body, and he winced, trying to hold still. He hadn’t thought it would hurt so much, which in retrospect had been hopelessly stupid. It was torture, and he’d thought he could just tough his way through it. He would have laughed at himself, but he didn’t have the energy and knew it would only hurt his ribs.
There was a thump of something heavy hitting the floor behind him. He would have craned his neck to look, but he needed to save his strength. Footsteps drew closer to him, and he cringed. This was it. Back to the water. He swallowed and fortified his mental defenses. He wouldn’t let Val in, and he wouldn’t talk. Whatever happened, he wouldn’t talk.
Someone crouched over him, and something clicked. The chains around him slackened, and the surprise made Dave’s eyelids fly open.
It was Madame Morphine. She’d unchained him. She put a hand on his shoulder and gently helped him to a sitting position. Dave rose dizzily, and the chains slid down his torso. Madame Morphine grabbed the ends of them and quickly unbound him.
Dave glanced behind him. The cat man lay in a heap on the floor, and nobody else was in the room. As crazy as it sounded, Madame Morphine was breaking him out.
“Can you stand?” she whispered.
Dave nodded, though in truth he wasn’t sure. He leaned forward, putting his hands on the concrete to push himself up. It didn’t quite work. Madame Morphine grabbed his arm, and together they managed to heave him to his feet. The floor seemed to tilt under him like a seesaw, so Madame Morphine pulled his arm around her shoulders and supported him.
The room had two doors, and Madame Morphine didn’t lead to the one Val, Blueblood, and others had left through. She took him out the back way, which meant her bosses were still here, and she was taking a huge personal risk to free him.
“Whyareyou—” His words slurred together. He worked his jaw and tried again. “Why are you doing this?”
“Eh, I owed you one,” she answered lightly. “You saved me from getting crushed by a falling building, remember?”
It took an embarrassingly long moment for her meaning to pierce the fog around his head. Madame Morphine wasn’t saving him. Val was doing it by mind-controlling her.
“If you’re found out—”
“Shh,” she said. “That energy you’re using to talk? Use it to move your legs faster.”
She managed to shove the door open while also keep him from falling, and Dave squinted in the early morning sunlight. Val—Madame Morphine half carried him across the small parking lot in the back of the building, Dave’s heavy feet stumbling over the cracks and holes in the pavement. He tried to move quickly, expecting that at any second, a shout would break out behind them, and he’d be dragged back to that bare room and the horrors within.
Then Madame Morphine stopped.
“What is it?” Dave asked.
“We’re getting to the edge of my telepathic range. I won’t be able to control her much farther, so listen up.” She glanced around the empty street. “I’ve planted an absolute certainty in her mind that Blueblood is going to betray her and let her take the fall for your murder. She’ll be convinced that getting you back to the DSA and turning evidence against him is the only way to stay safe. But without me around to keep influencing her, she might be able to come to her senses.”
She pointed to a thrift store down the street. “That place looks open. See if it has a phone and call 911. If it doesn’t, break into that salon next door. And whatever you do, don’t tell those morons at the DSA that I helped you. I’ve got a reputation to maintain. You got it?”
Dave nodded. “But what will you do?”
“Act surprised when we find you missing and get out of here before the cops track us down.”
The corner of Madame Morphine’s mouth curved up, a smile that was all Val even on the other woman’s face. “That’s my line.”
“And thank you.”
The smile faded. She reached out and brushed back his wet hair from his clammy forehead, and even though the hand was Madame Morphine’s, he savored the touch.
“I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner,” she said softly. “Now come on.”
They made their way across the street, and when Madame Morphine started muttering under her breath and glancing back over her shoulder every few seconds, Dave knew Val was gone.
He desperately hoped she’d be okay.
And Dave’s finally free! How many weeks did I leave him getting tortured for between updates? It was a while. 😉
In happier news, this should be the last week my update is late. Summer vacation is almost here!