“Where is he?”
Hank’s anger didn’t give her any time to reply. He struck her hard across the face, with the flat of his heavy hand, throwing her against the wall mirror, shattering it.
“He’s not here, Hank! I haven’t seen him in weeks.”
She clasped her hand to her cheek and could almost feel the dark bruise blossoming right beneath her eye socket. She’d end up with two fresh one on her shoulder and hip as well. No client would touch her like that for days. The thought made her grimace.
“Please, Hank, leave me alone. Taros left! He’ll never be back. Just leave me the fuck alone already!”
The rage burning in Hank’s head was a furnace spewing out blood red flames. The black bruise covering his eye told him a very different story about Taros’ so called disappearance. He couldn’t be gone. No one else would have dared lay a hand on him in the dark. No one else would dare shatter his good arm with a rock so that it could never heal up properly.
If not for his splintered arm, he would have killed Jinx there and then, beat her into a bloody red paste and thrown her corpse in the dumpsters beneath the bordello. It was only pain that held him back, the shrill cutting pain in his cracked ribs that had almost made the previous blow too much to bear. He told himself that much, at least.
“Get over here, bitch!”
He spat the words at her as his good arm undid his belt. If he couldn’t get his hands on the bastard, he’d make do with his slut instead. Let him come to her after that.
He lay on his back on the cold roof of the bordello, smoking a bent cigar, and listening very, very carefully. His knuckles still hurt from what he had done to Hank the night before. It would be nothing compared to what he’d do to him this night.
But first, Jinx needed a fallback. It would have been too easy, entirely too easy to cave Hank’s head in with that boulder instead of settling for his arm. But that would have left his sister in too much shit, not to mention the other girls. A bordello at least offers some type of protection for those unfortunate enough.
Whatever Hank thought he was doing, he was quick about it. Taros allowed himself a smile at the idea of ‘embarrassingly quick out it’. He waited until he heard Hank’s rasping breathing head away and the door to Jinx’s room slam shot. The sound of her heavy iron bolt drawing into position was unmistakable.
After long minutes, he heard her voice, quiet as a whisper, by her window.
“Come back in. He’s gone.” If she had cried, there was not a trace of that in her voice. She still sounded as sweet as a young girl tending a farm somewhere. His heart ached at the very form of that thought.
Slowly, carefully, he slid back down to her balcony and landed soundlessly next to her. She was bent at the waist over the railing of her balcony, smoking a thin, light smelling cigarette. Her hair hung loose over the right side of her face, covering what Taros assumed was her lovely new bruise. She was naked under her gown, her body’s outline visible through the smoke thin fabric. Light pouring off of the bordello’s large iridescent rose left little to the imagination.
“You shouldn’t have done that.” Her voice wasn’t angry but her hands trembled. “We’ve gained nothing by it.”
Taros lit a cigarette as well, walking inside her parlor instead of joining her. The Flower had too many curious eyes lolling about listlessly.
“He deserved it; and much more.” He answered back, just as calm as her; his eyes examined the shattered remains of her mirror. “At least you’ll have a few years of good luck after this.” He tried to chuckle but the joke didn’t feel particularly funny even to himself. “Did you cut yourself?”
Jinx ran her fingers down her arm, slowly, carefully checking.
“I’ll have a bad bruise, I guess. But no, not cuts anywhere.” She flicked her cigarette into the darkness below and walked back in, throwing herself on her back on her bed, her palms over her face, sighing deeply.
“What were you thinking, Taros? You know he beats the girls when he gets in a sour way. You broke his fucking arm.” She let her arms rest on her sides, watching the gentle swaying of the bed’s drapes with a faraway look in her eyes. “At least get rid of the glass since you’re here. I don’t feel like dealing with it.”
The dark skinned elf obeyed. He was responsible for the mess, after a fashion, so in a few minutes he felt comfortable that she could walk around bare footed once again. Elven blood attracted the wrong kind of attention. Neither of them needed it.
“Come here, Taros.” As he threw the last of the shards over the balcony she raised her arms and invited him into her bed.
He did not come.
“What’s the matter?” She asked him, raising herself up on her elbows. Her hair hung to the wrong side of her face and he could clearly see the bruise in bloom, dark blue on dark red on her pale skin. It was grotesque to him, that someone could tarnish her.
“If I come, I may end up doing something worse tonight to him.” He replied, taking a seat instead in the only armchair of the small, lavishly decorated room. “I’ll head out tonight. Get some air. Stay away from this place and see if I can find somewhere to move us.”
“Wear a hood or something.” She warned him, pushing herself into a sitting position. “Tonight’s not a good night to be an elf on the town; especially not one that can’t keep his temper in check.” She flashed him a girlish smile. “You’ll manage. Just be careful.”
Taros kissed her forehead softly and caressed her cheek, before heading out into the darkness. He eased himself back up unto the roof and traversed the few adjacent roofs of the bordello, coming down in a tight alleyway between a butcher’s shop and something that smelled of various chemicals, at the very edge between the Alchemists’ Quarter and the Merchants’ Agora. The general smell of the place hung somewhere in between gut wrenching and a crime against the sense of smell, so he did not linger.
Dark tendrils of nighttime mist coiled around his shoulders and feet as they spilled out of the Alchemists’ Quarter, bringing with them the various smells of alchemy; and also anonymity, for what it was worth to him. He wore a sleeveless dark leather jerkin and matching soft leather pants. He wore no weapon that could be seen, nor did he really need one. Even on the busiest lamp lit streets, he would never be more than a skulking shadow.
How easy it would have been to track Hank down and slice his throat.
‘…how fucking easy’.
He pushed the thought away, but it came back, eagerly snapping at the heels of his consciousness.
Hank had hit Jinx. He had beaten her even before Taros had broken his arm. He had forced himself on her and betrayed the trust they had offered him when first they came to Titan. That was unforgivable. That could not stand. He would die for it, and it wouldn’t be quick when it happened.
Taros walked into the night, heading towards the heart of the Agora, still thinking his dark thoughts. He’d been scouring Titan for days now, trying to find another place that took in elves, one that he could trust with Jinx’s safety. Few establishments would accept strangers, even fewer would still talk to him once they took note of his ears. Their money had dwindled away turns back and Titan was too set against his kind to offer any chance of decent employment.
Heading out and away from Titan itself could have been a good idea if they had gotten their wits beaten into them spans earlier. Braving the roads now, as beggars, worse than rats, was suicidal at best.
His thoughts ran in circles inside his head, a million times thought over, a million times left frustratingly unresolved.
Today was the breaking point, the last straw. The tattered remains of his honor would not allow for Jinx to be harmed again; or touched again by that ogre of a human. He felt himself snarling at the very thought of it.
Tonight he would stoop to pick pocketing. Tomorrow…maybe he’d try and use some of his half-forgotten better skills. His hands itched for the comfort of his blades and a dark, twisted thing inside him echoed that longing of the muscles. Hank would not live out the week, of that Taros became unmistakably certain as he ghost walked through the swelling crowd.