~~~

Ollie’s Oasis, a small hole-in-the-wall tavern located in the center of town, was packed to full capacity. Thirsty patrons lined the long bar off to the right. Every table was full, placing customers nearly back-to-back against each other in the small bar. Additional chairs were placed all around a small dance floor toward the back to accommodate the overflow crowd. Some patrons just stood along the walls or anywhere there was still a place to stand, drinks in hand, getting ready for the usual Friday night ‘skin show’ as it was called by the locals, to the extreme displeasure of the owner.

Ollie, a.k.a. ‘Herbie’ Howard Bledsoe, the one-time owner of a popular high-end strip club located in Geneva, Ohio, was a sweaty mess behind the bar. Reduced to underappreciated bartender, he was busy preparing drinks and shouting orders at his small staff of three employees, two of which were underage, the third, a thoughtful young woman with short-cropped black hair, thick-rimmed glasses, and an attitude he could do without.

“Wendy!” Herbie shouted over the complaining drunks at the bar. “Table three!”

The short young woman, just returning from another table, shot Herbie a dirty look as she pushed her way through the obnoxious crowd and slammed her serving tray on the counter. “I’m moving as fast as I can,” Wendy Meseler snapped at the overweight sweaty bartender. “All your yelling isn’t going to make me move any faster.”

Herbie twisted the tops off three bottles of beer and put them on the tray. “Damn it, girl,” he said. “Could you just try on a little bit of gratitude… just tonight, at least. You know how fucking busy we get on weekends.”

“Gee… let me try that on,” she said sarcastically. “I’m working for no pay, no tips, and all I get in return for busting my ass every night is rude behavior and lewd advances from all these ‘wonderful’ patrons… and on top of all that… I have to put up with all your bullshit, too. I don’t know, boss, it just doesn’t fit very well… all that gratitude you’ve mentioned.”

Herbie shook his head at the girl in frustration as he finished table three’s order. “Girl, I paid good money for you at auction… you know that. I didn’t have to do it, you know. But I felt bad for what happened… and I tried to help.”

She turned her attitude up a notch and stared at her owner. “First of all, my name is Wendy… not ‘girl’. Second, I remember very well what you didn’t do to help us when we were accused of starting that bar fight.”

“You know I didn’t have a choice,” Herbie barked. “They made me say what I said.”

“Third,” Wendy continued, “You owe us big time. So, don’t pretend what you did, bringing me to this shit hole you call a bar, was a favor. You just don’t want Tony coming back in here to finish what he wanted to do to you.”

Herbie laughed at Tony’s name. “Yeah, yeah, yeah… stop reminding me. After how he’s faired, it’s clear I should’ve spent my money on him. He’s doing rather well these days over at the fight pits… fucking champion and all.”

“You mean, his owner is doing rather well, you stupid asshole. Tony’s in complete agony over what this town is making him do.”

Herbie wisely left it at that. He nodded at the girl and finished, “Just… just try to be a little nicer, could you please? I’m begging you.”

Wendy picked up the tray full of drinks, smiled wickedly at Herbie, and said, “No way, boss. As long as I’m here, working for you, I intend to make you suffer with me.”

“Just go,” he said with a laugh, shaking his head at the girl. “Believe me, I’ve been suffering in this town long before you and your friends arrived.”

She started back through the crowd, yelling over her shoulder, “Well, that makes me feel a little better, boss.”

“And tell Sheila she’s on in five minutes!” he shouted after her.

Wendy gave him the finger.

Herbie watched the girl go and smiled, ignoring the endless demands from the patrons at the bar for just a moment. “Well… at least she calls me ‘boss’.”

“Hey ‘boss’, any chance I’ll get my damn beer sometime this year?” the closest patron mocked.

Herbie turned toward the rude customer, smiled, and said, “Just for that comment, I’m going to pretend I never saw you sitting there, asshole.” He turned toward the rest of the crowded bar. “Okay, which one of you ungrateful sons-of-bitches is next?”

~~~

After serving up drinks to table three, Wendy was grateful to break away from all the drunk perverts for a few minutes. She slipped behind the bar, entering a small room where warm bottled beers and kegs were stacked. Behind one row of kegs, three feet away from the wall, a tall, young girl of seventeen sat in a fold-up chair smoking a cigarette, her curly blond hair hanging low over her face. She was wearing a flashy gold two-piece bikini that looked a size too small, stretched across her chest and waist to make what little she had seem like more. The pale-skinned girl was as thin as she was tall. She’d crossed her long bare legs in the chair. They were shaking.

Wendy waited near the last keg, not wanting to startle the girl, who seemed oblivious to everything except the cigarette she was quickly smoking to calm her nerves. Wendy frowned at the girl, immediately reminded of her deceased friend, Beverly. Bev, I miss you, but maybe it’s better you didn’t make it this far, she thought sadly. This girl would’ve been you in a place like this… or something far worse.

The girl finally looked up and noticed Wendy. She dropped her cigarette and nearly fell out of the chair trying to stand. “What the hell?” she said. “Why are you… why are you just standing there?”

“Sorry,” Wendy said. “I didn’t want to… I mean… sorry for creeping up on you.”

The girl looked irritated. “Can’t have a fucking moment of peace around here!” she snapped, quickly veiling her vulnerability, if nothing else. “What do you want, new girl?”

“The boss sent me to tell you you’re on in five minutes.”

“Don’t you think I know that already?” she snapped.

“Sorry.”

“Well, you’ve delivered the message. You can go fuck yourself now.”

Over the last couple of weeks, Wendy had tried to get to know the young girl, who had the unfortunate job of stripping and dancing at the Oasis every Friday and Saturday night between her regular shifts as waitress. But Sheila, wanted nothing to do with her.

Wendy decided to take a bold step this time. “I can… you know… talk to him about all this. It’s not right that you have to… put on shows.”

The young girl’s eyes turned dark and vicious. “What are you talking about?”

“You know… the stripping. I can tell you hate it. I would, too.”

“You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, cunt! And don’t you dare say anything to Ollie about it!”

Wendy gave her a confused look. “But… you don’t have to do this. It’s not right.”

Sheila’s face changed. She looked genuinely amused, picking up her cigarette, shaking her head, and then taking another drag. “You poor, stupid girl,” she said. “Coming in here with your damn higher ground attitude like you really have a choice in what you can and can’t do. You’re pathetic.”

Wendy was getting angry now. “I may be stuck here, like you, but I’m not going to put on that costume and let those animals drool over me.”

Sheila laughed. “You think this is hard? Please. I’ve had worse gigs than this… and have done things that would probably make your prude little ass blush until next week.”

Wendy’s anger was now shifting toward Herbie. “He told me he never made the girls do that! ‘Dancing only’, he said. He said he wasn’t into prostitution! My God, you’re just a teenager!”

“Stupid girl, I wasn’t talking about Ollie. He’s been good to me, all things considered. I’ve been sold and bought more times than you can count. That’s what happens to the pretty ones around here… don’t you get that? That’s how you survive in this fucking town.”

Wendy didn’t know what to say.

Sheila eyeballed Wendy’s baggy clothes, making the new girl shift uncomfortable. “Yeah, I was you once. All fucking full of morals and things I said I’d never do. I had friends, too. They’re all gone now. Some dead… some much worse than dead. But I survived.” She then leaned over and asked, “You know how I did that, stupid girl?”

Wendy shook her head.

“I fucking wised up really fast, that’s how! No one comes to New Cleveland empty handed, not if you want to live. When you got nothing of value, you disappear real quick is this place. So, you use whatever you have… make yourself valuable.”

“You call this living?” Wendy said. “I’d rather be dead than whore myself out to New Cleveland.”

Sheila laughed, waving a dismissive hand in her face. She put out her cigarette. “Like I said, I was you once. Started off with a few choices, then those choices got fewer and fewer the longer I was here. Next thing you know, someone wants something from you, something you’re not willing to give… and that’s when the trouble starts. Those choices disappear, like that self-righteous attitude you’re giving me. Next thing you know, some owner isn’t pleased with you and the murder shops start calling for the girl who won’t give the customers what they want. Then you have a new choice, stupid girl. You either start letting go of those precious morals, or those owners start seeing just how unprofitable you and your morals really are, and next thing you know you’re sold to one of them awful places. Know what happens then, stupid girl?”

Wendy shook her head.

“Well… you don’t ever want to know! You start hearing stories about what happened to your friends who refused to do what their owners demanded… especially your female friends. Then they get sold to the murder shops.” Sheila’s face went pale, her eyes drifting to another time and place. “Then you hear new stories, stupid girl. You hear stories about what happened to your friends in places like that, places that don’t give choices, places that give all the choices to the vilest customers you can imagine. You know what they do to new girls with morals in places like that, stupid girl?” Sheila looked at Wendy’s baggy clothes again and laughed.

“Stop looking at me like that?” Wendy said.

“Like what?” Sheila said. “You think I have it bad because I go out there in that filthy fat man’s bar and dance for a few perverts, show some skin, and call it a night? That’s nothing. This is an easy gig for me… the easiest I’m going to get, for as long as I’m here. Ollie protects his girls. He won’t let those assholes touch me, and they don’t, not unless they want the Lunatics to come raining down on them. But… I could be sold again tomorrow if I was just a stupid, mouthy waitress who looked like you and disrespected her owner as much as you do.”

“Is that what you think of me?” Wendy said. “Is that why you can’t stand me?”

Shelia laughed. “I hate what you are. You have that new girl smell that makes me sick and reminds me of what I used to be… before all this. And that smell is bullshit!”

“Sounds like you just gave up,” Wendy said.

“You don’t know anything. But you will. You’ll learn, just like I did. After all your friends are gone and you’re all alone in this place… you’ll learn that you can’t survive on that higher ground, not here. You may not be much to look at, might not have much under the hood, although I suspect you might have an asset or two worth looking at under all those clothes.”

“Shut up,” Wendy said. “Don’t talk to me like one of ‘them’.”

“Fair enough. I’m just trying to help you, stupid girl. If you don’t start thinking ahead to when Ollie’s sick of your prude little mouthy ass, and he just sells you one day, then you might end up with an owner far worse who won’t protect you when those gold or silver coins start floating around and someone wants what your hiding under those baggy clothes. Even if it’s not much… they’ll still want it, because they can have it.”

Wendy crossed her arms in front of her chest, suddenly feeling like she was the one wearing the bikini. “I’ll be long gone before that day comes,” she said. “Why don’t come with me.”

“What? You mean ‘out there’!? Are you insane? There’s nothing left out there but death! Places like New Cleveland is all there is.”

“You’re wrong,” Wendy said. “There’s good people out there, too.”

Sheila shook her head and stood up, straightening her bikini top. “Keep dreaming, stupid girl, if that’s what you want to do. There’s nothing good left in this world. New Cleveland is all there is. You’ll see what happens to dreams in this place, right before you get drugged up and gang banged for the rest of your pitiful days wishing for death because you wouldn’t compromise the high ground and give what you got on your terms.” She turned to Wendy with a grave face. “If you don’t learn to use what you got, and you have far less than I do, then you’re going to suffer in unimaginable ways… I promise you that.”

“No, I still have friends here. We’re working on a plan to get the hell out of New Cleveland.”

Sheila laughed. “You stupid, foolish girl! Haven’t you heard a word I said? I had friends, too. We thought the same way you did… until New Cleveland destroyed us. I’m still here because I learned to play the game… and that’s the only reason. So, figure it out while you still can, new girl. You’re not much to look at but if you sucked an occasional dick, maybe even Ollie’s fat-”

“Just… shut up!” Wendy said. “I don’t want to hear any more of this!”

“Suit yourself, new girl. I was only trying to help.” Sheila pushed past Wendy and started toward the bar dance floor. “I really hope Ollie breaks down and buys some new cassette tapes soon, I’m getting tired of dancing to that same old shit he keeps playing.”

Wendy watched the defeated young woman walk away. She was deeply troubled by Sheila’s dark words and advice.

“I had friends, too.”

Since being sold at auction two weeks ago, Wendy’s friends had been scattered all over New Cleveland. Tony had become some champion in the fight pits, and she’d already seen what that was doing to him. Nine was sold to the owner of some casino. Diane was stuck with the devil himself, serving as one of Candyman’s personal attendants, whatever that meant. To date, none of them had any idea what happened to Mark or Sergeant Hash, but they all feared the worst. And though plans were still in play to locate Orosco and his people, nothing concrete had surfaced yet. Only rumors.

Sheila’s words had struck deep within her, causing all her fears to rise to the surface as she was forced to consider what it would mean if Tony and the others were swallowed up in this hellish place, leaving her all alone.

How long would Herbie put up with you then? she wondered.

Tony was scheduled to fight this evening.

What if he died in the pits tonight? How long would any of them last if New Cleveland killed them off one at a time, slowly reducing their chances to escape?

It wouldn’t hurt to start being nicer to Herbie, she thought. He is doing what he can to help us.

She wondered how sincere Herbie’s motives really were. Was he really acting out of guilt for what happened at his bar that night, and for being forced to lie, or, was he just waiting for an opportunity to be rid of Tony so he could sell the mouthy waitress off to whoever wanted to buy her?

She thought about the murder shops and shook.

It wasn’t that first time she thought about those horrible places, especially since they hadn’t found Mark or Hash yet. She shook the dire thoughts from her mind.

Dear God, she prayed. Please let them be okay. Please help me find my friends, all of them, and help us get the hell out of here as fast as we can.

Wendy noticed a cracked stand-up mirror leaning upright against the wall beside Sheila’s chair. She walked over to it and stared at her distorted reflection.

She frowned at the unremarkable girl staring back at her wearing far too much clothing to hide her own insecurities about her body. “You never were much to look at,” she reminded herself. In her old world, she struggled with her physical limitations by compensating with her mind instead, choosing to battle that ancient world’s perception of beauty, with a beautiful mind. When that world ended, she’d believed that she’d gained an advantage in this new hostile world… but not here in New Cleveland.

She tried to imagine herself standing naked on that bar dance floor, growing numb to it as Sheila had done, and she couldn’t.

“Never,” she whispered. “She’s dead already.” She walked away from the mirror in disgust, silently vowing to herself that if it ever came down to one of those dire choices that Sheila mentioned, Wendy would choose to remain on the higher ground… or die trying.

~~~

“Last call!” Herbie shouted across the half-full bar.

Those two words immediately filled Wendy with relief, but also reminded her how exhausted she was as she pushed her aching legs back toward the bar.

Herbie, looking like his sweaty shirt had dried enough for another round a sweat to fill the creases, wiped his brow with the back of his forearm and took several deep breathes, steading himself on the bar. Fortunately, the remaining patrons were content to remain at their tables, too drunk to make the trip to the bartender for their endless demands.

“You’re not looking too good, boss,” Wendy said, genuinely concerned.

Herbie smiled. “Don’t you worry about me, girl. As much as I’m sure you’d love to just watch me keel over and croak on any given evening, I assure you, it will never happen. My curse is to run this shit-hole forever.”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” she said. “I’m just…well… you need to take it easy. I’m sure you know this isn’t a sprint, but a marathon, especially on weekends.”

The overweight bartender raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Well, thanks for your… concern?”

Wendy averted her eyes and shook her head. “Just an observation. Don’t read too much into it. You’re still an asshole. And my name’s still Wendy, not ‘girl’.”

Herbie laughed. “And there she is! That’s the girl I remember! You threw me off tonight. Thought something happened to you between fetching Sheila, which took an excruciatingly long time, up until just now.”

“What do you mean?” Wendy said.

Herbie leaned over the bar toward her. “You don’t do this shit for as long as I have without learning a thing or two about human behavior. And you… Wendy… were acting more withdrawn than usual since coming back from the back room. What happened? Did that girl say something to you? Rattle your cage a bit?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “Let’s just fetch the rest of these pigs their beers and call it a night.”

Herbie wouldn’t let it go. “You don’t think much of me, do you?”

“Obviously.”

“No… that’s not what I’m talking about. You think I’m a monster parading that naked minor around my place, is that it?”

Wendy glared at him. “I know what you used to do, before, so I can’t say I’m surprised. But what you put Sheila through seems even low for you. It’s disgusting.”

“She tell you that?” he said. “Did Sheila tell you I’m a pig for making her strip and dance for these creeps?” Herbie looked offended.

“Well… no she didn’t. In fact, she seems to think you’re a swell guy.”

Herbie relaxed a little. “I take good care of her. Don’t you think that I don’t. I’m not happy about what she does, but she does it well and keeps the complaints down.”

“Complaints?”

“Yeah. People come in here expecting to be entertained. They drink, they let off a little steam, and then Sheila distracts them with a show to keep them… satisfied. They know she’s not on the menu, so they watch her dance, hootin’ and hollerin’ with all the rest of them, shouting for her to take her clothes off. Then she teases them a bit, but eventually gives them what they came for… and that’s the illusion of control.”

Wendy shook her head. “It’s appalling. She doesn’t even care anymore how they stare at her, or what she’s made to do for them.”

Herbie took a deep breath, staring at Wendy sadly. “Sheila plays her part. Just like you and I do, Wendy. That girl’s been through hell and back and she knows damn well what’s she’s doing.”

Wendy looked confused. “I don’t understand. You act like she’s the one doing this by choice.”

Herbie looked away, pretending to wipe the counter top with his sweaty bar towel. “I’ve had other dances here, legal dancers. They’ve all come and gone because they can’t do what’s expected, not for very long. I don’t make any of these girls do more than they can handle. Like I said, I treat them well, always have. I give them a choice to come here and dance because of what they did out there, in the darkest corners of this sleazy town.”

“So, you’re saying that you, what, rescue them?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“That’s bullshit.”

“Wendy, you have no idea how ruthless New Cleveland is. I’ve been in the skin business for a very long time and I’ve seen and dealt with some very dark individuals in my days. But nothing, and I mean nothing, is as bad as this place. There’s no damn rules here to protect the girls. It’s not like before, in the old world. I’m sure you know that. So, I decided to help the girls I find out there. I talk to them, the ones who have no life left behind their eyes after what they’ve been through here. I give them a choice to come dance for me, and if they accept, I try to buy them from their owners.”

“You’re no different than the rest,” Wendy said. “You treat them just as bad, disrespecting them for profit.”

Herbie shook his head. “No, Wendy, you don’t get it. These girls I find, like Sheila, they’re only value in this fucked-up town is how well they perform. If I take them off the streets, bring them here, and tell them they don’t have to whore around anymore or do any of the despicable things they’ve had to do before coming here, then they give me this look—this terrified look—as if I’m trying to kill them.”

“I don’t get that,” Wendy said. “Are you telling me they’d rather be this town’s whores than come here and-”

“Wait on tables? Yes, Wendy, that’s exactly what I’m telling you. If word got around that I was buying up whores in town and giving them back their… self-respect… people would start to complain to management, and I’m talking about the guy who runs the ultimate show here. Everyone and everything in New Cleveland needs to be profitable. Should whores stop being whores and word got back to Candyman that I had something to do with it, then not only would he shut this fine establishment down, but he’d take those girls and put them right back in the mess they were in… except now… they’d have a reputation as women who tried to upset the balance of things. Candyman has no tolerance for that… at all.”

Wendy considered this. “So, you’re telling me that you let Sheila strip for you here, rather than whore for someone else out there, just to protect them… and their reputation for still turning a profit?”

“You’re starting to see the bigger picture, girl… sorry… Wendy. It’s all about appearances. Back in the day I knew how to put together shows to please the crowds. I knew exactly what kind of women could pull that off, and which ones couldn’t. It’s not just about stripping and dancing, it’s about performing.”

Wendy was catching on. “So, it’s all an act. And act within an act. Sheila strips, but she does it by choice, which, in a sense, makes it her choice and not theirs… and this keeps up the appearance that the owner of Ollie’s Oasis is not trying to upset the balance of things.”

“Bingo. Out there, those poor girls don’t have a chance. They can be made to do whatever base things anyone wants them to do… and I don’t want to fill your head with those nasty possibilities. In here, there’s still rules. No one touches my girls. No one hurts them. No one can… kill them. They still perform and they’re still profitable, but under my roof, they’re protected. Get it?”

Wendy nodded. “This place is insane.”

“That it is, but we all have to play our parts. Like I said, Sheila knows what’s she doing, and she does it willingly, because she’s knows how bad it is everywhere else. She keeps the complaints down in my establishment while continuing to protect her reputation as ‘profitable’. My job is to keep her safe, and I don’t let her do anything she doesn’t want to do. And since Candyman also treats the rights of ‘ownership’ seriously, no one messes with my girls, not here, not if they don’t want the Lunatics to come pay them a visit. It’s a shitty, unfair system. But once you know the rules, you learn how to get around them and make them work for you.”

Wendy stared at Herbie. She wanted to hate the vile man, but she could see the logic in what he was doing. Sheila had pretty much painted the picture of what life was like outside the Oasis. “Well,” she finally said. “I’m not going to apologize, even if, in your warped way, you are trying to protect her. It’s all still dark and diabolical. I don’t know why you even stay in this crazy place.”

Herbie frowned. “I stay because someone like me, out there in the real world with the dead, would perish. Just look at me, Wendy. Do you think I could have survived with you and your friends?”

“Probably not,” she said.

Herbie laughed. “Wow, you don’t pull punches, do you?”

“Sorry.”

“That’s okay, girl. I know the score. People like me, we don’t survive out there. We survive where the people come together, or what’s left of them. I’m not happy remaining here, but that doesn’t make me any less of a survivor. I’m just better in here.”

Wendy nodded. “I can see that. I feel the exact opposite. I’m a novice as far as survival in a place like this. Out there, is where me and my friends belong.” She looked down at the counter and swallowed hard. “In fact, as much as I hate to admit it, you purchasing me at auction might very well be the reason I’m still alive, if what Sheila told me is any indication.”

Herbie waved her off. “Don’t believe every word she says. Sheila’s been made hard by this place. She’ll outlast us all after what she’s been through. I did what I could to help you and your friends by getting you safely in here. I’m glad you can see that now.”

“I can.”

“I tried to get your other friend, Diane, too… but I was outbid.”

“I didn’t know that.”

Herbie shook his head, perplexed, and started cleaning out shot glasses with his sweaty towel. “Yeah. I was surprised. Didn’t think anyone would want her at all… other than those sick bastards in the murder shops.”

“Why would you think that?” Wendy said, placing her hands on her sides. “That woman’s one of the fiercest fighters I know. She’s worth ten times whatever you paid for me.”

“I meant no disrespect. It’s just that… well… with that missing arm and all, along with her homely appearance… she’s not much of a prospect in very many markets, except the worst ones.”

“Don’t talk about my friend like that!” Wendy tried to calm down. “She’s not some damn ‘prospect’! She’s a human being!”

Herbie sighed. “I was just making an observation from the business perspective. Like I said, I tried to buy her out, but I was outbid… and I’m not talking small change. The bid was so high on that girl that it shut down everyone else. We all were thinking the same damn thing. Candyman wanted her, which means, no one else can bid if they know what’s good for them. Of course, he had someone else buy her out to keep his name out of the auction, but we all knew who it really was. It’s just damn unusual, even for Candyman, to bid that high for damaged goods… no offense. In truth, I find it troubling.”

“How so?”

Herbie gave her a grave look, then quickly changed his demeanor. “Don’t mind me, girl. It’s probably nothing. I’m just tired and overly suspicious when I haven’t slept.”

“What are you keeping from me?” Wendy pushed. “Is Diane in danger?”

“We’re all in danger, girl,” Herbie laughed. “And the sooner you recognize that and wise up, the longer your life expectancy in this place will be.”

Wendy rolled her eyes. “Now you sound like Sheila. Is there anything worth living for in this town or have you all just settled for whatever happens because everyone’s so damn afraid of dying in the real world?”

Herbie frowned. “Fear is a powerful prison, girl. I suspect that if Candyman took all his Lunatics off the walls tonight that no one would leave.”

“We would… in a heartbeat,” Wendy said.

Herbie laughed. “Well, I just might be able to arrange that for you if you’re patient enough.”

Wendy’s eyes lit up. “You’ve found something then?”

“Not now, girl. Too many ears in this place. Let’s get these drunk sons-of-bitches out of here, clean up, and then we’ll talk.”

Wendy picked up her tray, turned back toward the thinning crowd, and said over her shoulder, “I’m holding you to it. So, don’t give me your tired bullshit after closing.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Herbie said with a laugh. He watched the young woman go back to work with a sad look in his eyes. He started to wonder how long he could keep her safe under the scrutinizing eye of New Cleveland. There wasn’t much of a future for waitresses in a place that demanded your very soul… eventually.

Wendy made her rounds about the tables, removing empty glasses and replacing them with full ones. The crowd was mellowing out as most looked like they were ready to pass out on the tables or were content to keep talking bullshit with each other. Wendy maneuvered quietly among them, grateful that she finally escaped their notice.

There’s something to be said about being unremarkable to look at, she thought with a smile. Eventually, even the dogs forget you’re there.

Wendy was scribbling down an order on her pad from the last table when she looked up and froze.

A late arrival had come in unnoticed, sitting down at one of the small back tables buried in shadows. He was a tall string bean of a man who flashed her a menacing smile while making a show of repeatedly tossing a silver coin up in the air and catching it.

Wendy frowned, letting her tired shoulders sag. Apparently, I’m not as forgettable as I’d hoped, she thought.

Mr. Silver was back.

~~~

Next Episode 50-3

Previous Episode 50-1

~~~

If you’re enjoying Don’t Feed The Dark so far, please consider voting for it on Top Web Fiction and Top Site List by clicking the links below. This will help increase its visibility and draw in more potential readers. No registration is required. Thanks for your support and for reading :)

Vote for DFTD at topwebfiction

Vote for DFTD at Top Site List

__________________________________________
“Chapter 50-2: Amusement” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Comments? I love to read them

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s