Bishop Llewellyn woke with the certainty that it was not going to be a good day. His head was full of tiny elves industriously beating on drums. His stomach was jumping in time to the drum beating. And his arms were twisted uncomfortably behind his back, where they appeared to be tied to his ankles. No, it wasn’t going to be a good day. A dark bag that seemed to be impregnated with cow manure was pulled over his head. He sincerely hoped that most of the cow manure had been emptied from the bag before he had dubious pleasure of its acquaintance. As he carefully took stock of his situation, he realized that he was stark naked and cold and had been rather carelessly dumped on the rough metal floor of a moving vehicle. It was a stupid way to spend his forty-fifth birthday.
The speed at which the vehicle was moving down something that resembled a dry pot-holed river bed did not auger well for either the vehicle or his skin. He bounced from one side to the other, slamming into hard pointy objects and concluded with faint resignation that he had no hope of getting out of this situation with a whole skin. The vehicle slammed to a stop and he heard the driver get out and shut the door. A few seconds later, the back door was opened and he was yanked toward the opening, losing more skin on the way. Almost with relief, he felt the tiny needle prick in his ankle and then he knew no more.
When he woke next, the elves were still with him but he was stretched out on the cold ground with his arms and legs firmly tied to stakes. And much to his dismay, he was still naked. The odiferous bag had been removed from his head and he saw that he was surrounded by darkness. About six feet away, a small fire was merrily crackling but it provided no heat for him. The duct tape that had covered his mouth had obviously been ripped off, taking part of his skin and mustache with it. It still burned, so he decided he was glad that he had not been conscious for that particular delight. His field of vision was limited but it seemed to him that he was in a cave.
“Happy Birthday, Bishop. I see you decided to finally rejoin the almost living,” a dark velvety voice observed and he knew exactly why he was in this situation.
“‘Lo, Trav,” he said casually. “Lots of work to piss off my father.”
“Now, Bish,” he was assured, “nothing is too much work to piss off your father.” Traveller moved into his field of vision and looked down at him. “You don’t look very comfortable, Bish. Aren’t you cold, like that?”
“Freezing,” Bish replied curtly. “But I’m sure you have something in mind to warm me up, so I’m not too worried about it.” He shivered artistically but Trav wasn’t buying. “So, what’s the deal? Are we waiting for a party? Or is this a stag deal?”
“Just you and me,” Trav informed him agreeably. “Straight trade. You for Dance.”
“And if Dad doesn’t have Dancer?” Bish didn’t think that his father had Dancer.
“We-ll, we’ll get to be better friends than we are now.” Traveller laughed quietly, sending chills up Bishop’s back. “I do hope that your father believed me when I said that I won’t negotiate.” He moved away and Bish heard the sound of liquid splashing into a container. “Are you thirsty?”
“I could use some water,” Bish replied.
“Here. Turn your head,” Trav instructed as he held a metal cup to Bish’s mouth. “There are approximately six hundred men out there on the mountain, trying to pinpoint this position. One of them is your girlfriend’s father, Carl DeMarko.” he said casually, as he tossed his heavy auburn braid back over his shoulder.
“Tiff’s not my girlfriend,” Bish declared curtly. “She’s a Fed they sicced on me when you disappeared.”
“I see. Now it’s my fault you were sleeping with that foul-mouthed wild cat?”
Bish shrugged. “Why turn down what’s offered?”
“Oh, maybe because she might just stick her gun up your butt and pull the trigger?”
“Nah, never happen. She’s using me to get something on my old man. Anyway, she’s fucking us both.”
Trav just stared at him in disbelief. “If Free finds out she’s a Fed, she’ll be a dead Fed.”