Goddorra’s building did not resemble a criminal headquarters, at least not in Leta’s eyes. It was several stories high and looked like it had once been a sprawling, elegant hotel, but now suffered from age and decay.
Ahead of her, Fiearius pushed through tarnished double-doors without hesitation. Leta followed and got one glimpse of the circular, red-carpeted lobby before there was a flurry of movement and noise.
In a flash, at least ten men were on their feet, guns cocked and lifted to their faces. Leta, who came to a sharp halt, felt her blood go cold and heart stop in her chest. For a moment no one moved. No one breathed. Then —
“Wow,” said Fiearius. He sounded amused. “Definitely upped the security lately, huh?” He regarded the men only distractedly. “Relax, boys, I got business with the fine gentleman upstairs,” he continued, and then gestured toward her. “And the kid’s with me.”
Mercifully, the men relaxed. The tension thinned from the air. Nonetheless, it was only when they had crossed through the lobby and slipped inside the elevator that Leta managed to take a deep breath.
“Fucking shit,” she hissed under her breath, wondering wildly what she had just gotten herself into it. But — perhaps the worst was over. Perhaps now she just had one quick job to do. Exhaling slowly, Leta spoke as calmly as possible to the person at her side.
“So,” she said pointedly, “what exactly is your ‘plan’ — “
“Your hair’s too neat,” said Fiearius suddenly, swinging his hand around and ruffling it atop her head, much to her chagrin. More seriously, he said, “Slouch more. Don’t smile. Don’t be nervous. He can smell fear. Don’t look him in the eye. Don’t look him anywhere. But don’t look away either.” His expression went suddenly grave. “And don’t say a word or you will die a quick but painful death.”
Feeling unnerved, Leta stared at him for a moment before he broke into a grin and said, “I’m just messin’, kiddo. You’re fine,” and reached to cheerfully mess her hair again.
This time, Leta grabbed for his wrist, groaned in embarrassment and looked away. “Don’t call me that,” she muttered, shoving him off a bit harder than necessary.
With that, the elevator gave a friendly ding and the doors slid open. As they stepped out into the hallway, they were greeted, once again, by a circle of men with guns in their arms. They seemed to be guarding one singular door in the center of the hall.
At her side, Fiearius groaned in annoyance before shouting, “Solon, I swear, I’m getting fuckin’ tired of this.”
Not a moment later, the door swung open and man’s silhouette filled the space it left. The figure stepped out and Leta’s eyes narrowed.
So this, she thought, was Solon Godorra. A slave trader and master weapons dealer. He was thin and tall, dressed in a fine patterned suit. Leta guessed he was somewhere probably in his sixties, with silver hair and sunken eyes they were currently fixated on Fiearius. It wasn’t his strongly-armed crew that made Leta feel nervous. It was this single man. She could only imagine the horrors he’d inflicted, directly and indirectly, into the lives of women and men everywhere. The prickling on the back of her neck was indication enough that this was a person Leta shouldn’t have been near, now or ever.
“Fiearius,” Solon stated, the name sounding rather bitter on his tongue. “Funny. I had a feeling I would be seeing you sometime soon.”
“You subscribing to that weird psychic religion stuff again?” said Fiearius. Leta kept her eyes on Godorra, but she could feel Fiearius smirking beside her.
For a moment, it seemed Solon was unresponsive. His eyes narrowed, his stance hardened. His men picked up on the body language and they too were changing the grips on their guns. But then, unexpectedly, the powerful weapon’s dealer smiled genuinely and swept his arm towards the door.
“Good to see you again, old friend. Please,” he offered. “Step into my office.”
In spite of her every instinct telling her not to, Leta followed after Fiearius to the door, feeling many pairs of eyes pressing onto her as she did so. She knew she must’ve looked out of place. She was out of place.
As the door fell shut, Leta swept her eyes quickly around the office. It was large, circular and lavish, its windows covered in heavy drapes. Leta thought of what funded this sort of living and felt another twist in her stomach. These people were sick. Godorra was sick.
And, horribly, Fiearius was treating him like an old buddy. She watched as Fiearius dropped into the chair and swung his feet up on the desk between them. Tentatively, she took the other seat.
It was then that the other set of doors across the office opened a crack, and another man slid his tall frame inside. He, too, was dressed sharply in tailored clothing. His deeply tanned, narrow face was lined with age, but his grey eyes were strangely piercing, as he sent a look toward Solon.
“He’s the same,” he said gravely to Solon, indicating toward the room he had just left. “Still critical.”
Pulling the door shut behind him with a snap, he looked up just then to the other arrivals. “Soliveré,” he greeted. Something close to a smirk touched his eyes. “It … has been a long time. Care for a drink?”
“When do I say no to a drink, Saviano?” said Fiearius, waving his hand in the air in mock-aristocratic fashion.
The man called Saviano went to the small bar in the corner, crowded with glinting crystal. He lifted a decanter and filled rocks glasses, then turned and offered them out to everyone except Leta, raising his eyebrows as he did.
“And what’s this?” he wondered, a little unfavorably, as he flicked his eyes toward Leta and rested them there. Instinctively, Leta narrowed her eyes. After a moment, Saviano smirked and mused grandly, “You know, slave trading season is over, Fiearius.”
The innocence in his voice made Leta’s feelings of fear fade away. Now she felt something else. Now, she felt anger. Apparently the lone female in the room wasn’t even worthy of an introduction, let alone a name or a title.
“That’s nice to know,” she put in suddenly, mockingly matching Saviano’s tone of innocence. His eyebrows lifted in surprise as she finished coldly, “I’m not up for trade.”
At her side, Fiearius had paused, his glass halting halfway to his mouth as he glanced sidelong to her for a moment, then looked up at Saviano.
“Now now, you know me,” he said at last. “Crew, not captives.” He smiled and reached over to gently pat Leta’s hand. Discreetly, Leta slid her hand away.
“Except for one,” Solon pointed out from across the desk, tilting his own drink back.
“Well,” said Fiearius in surprise, “a man’s allowed a few vices, right?” He shrugged his shoulders and then downed the liquid in the glass in one shot.
“I’d say you’re a man with more than a few, though, wouldn’t I?” said Solon.
Here, Fiearius smirked broadly. “I didn’t come here to talk about my bad habits, Solon,” he told him frankly, skidding his empty glass across the man’s desk. “Though if you’re really that interested, take me out and buy me a drink,” he laughed. Solon chuckled an airy laugh in turn.
“Yes, well, I’ll think about it,” he remarked absently, clearly uninterested in continuing down Fiearius’ slippery path. This wasn’t a negotiation, Leta realized, as much as it was a pissing contest. She was torn between apprehension and, actually, rolling her eyes. Thankfully, Solon seemed ready to call it to an end.
“Business then,” he said briskly. “What have you got for me this time?”