The Trench Rats: Part 2
SHE SAT ON a small hard chair out in a dim musty hallway, the sound of water dripping somewhere far off in the distance, while they stood in the other room talking and arguing with each other. They'd had to blindfold her to get her here, and she hadn't taken to that very well. As a result, they'd pretty much had to force her to come, but she'd gotten in a few good swings and scratches, and at least that was some consolation. She kept her head down as if dozing but in reality listened in on everything they said. The office they were in was sterile looking and brightly lit, much different from the dank hallway she was in; she'd seen it before they'd decided she was better off out in the hallway, where apparently she wouldn't listen in on them. Perhaps they didn't even know she understood English. Whichever it was, though they talked about her, they seemed to have forgotten she existed.
She sorted out their faces in her mind as she heard them talk, each in turn.
"So, what, is she ungrateful or something?"
"I don't know! I don't think she speaks English. She threw a fit when we got her, she threw another fit when we tried to cover up her eyes."
"You have to admit, you know, someone you love's just been killed, you're being chased by Nazis, some stranger decides to blindfold you, well, of course you'd throw a fit." This from the first one who'd spoken, one she'd seen on first going into the office--not as tall as the one who'd rescued her, but apparently with more authority, wearing a gold cape and corporal's bars on his arm.
"It wasn't any reason to try to tear my eyes out." This from the one riding the bird that had lifted her off, a tall one in a silver cape, rather handsome (if she were interested, which she told herself she wasn't).
"Your eyes look fine to me."
"Would you like me to demonstrate, then, how effective a woman's fingers are for forming a nice sharp hook?"
"I'm just saying..."
"We got her here, that's all that really matters, right?" This from the second one who'd been in on the rescue, a short dark-furred one in a coppery cape. "Does Mahogany know about her yet or not? He's going to have to set up a place in the compound..."
"Don't worry, he finds out everything."
"Is she injured or hurt in any way? Physically? Mentally?" This from the other one who'd been in the office when they arrived, one in a black cape, the one she assumed must be in charge of things around here. "Because then she goes to Burgundy first. Before anything else."
"No, no, not hurt...rattled maybe."
"Can you blame her?"
"I didn't say I did. Do you have a chip on your shoulder today?"
"Look, if you two want you can always argue later. What I'd like to know is who she was running from, what they wanted."
"It looked obvious to me...she looks Gypsy or something. I assume they meant to finish her off, after making good use of her first..."
A brief pause; she could almost hear the one in black scowling. "So, she's not quite fit to live, yet she's fit enough to have some fun with, right?" the one in gold said, tone slightly bantering, as if trying to prevent an argument. "Just me, or do these guys not make sense?"
"It's always like that in war, you figure it out."
"Mahogany doesn't just find things out by mindreading." The one in copper. "Somebody's going to have to go down there and tell him."
"Does she even know what's going on?"
"I don't know. Refuses to talk. Copper tried to get her to open up--"
"English, German, Roma, she didn't reply to any of them. I think she understands. She doesn't want to talk."
"Did she even know you guys were rescuing her? Here you are running from Nazis, you're ready to die, then somebody grabs you up and puts a blindfold on you--not very conducive to getting someone to talk--"
"Do you have a problem with how I do things? If you do, just say so. Maybe you could have come up with a better plan? When somebody's trying to claw your eyes out?"
"I'm just saying--"
"Do you think I should go tell Mahogany?"
"LOOK. If this keeps up, you're both getting trench duty. On the same shift. Don't tempt me." Silence. "Now--Copper. You say she most likely understands but won't talk. You have any idea what language she would speak?"
"Silver said she looks to be Gypsy. I agree. I tried some Roma...I think she was a little surprised that I could speak it. Not surprised enough to reply though."
"Well, then she just has this matter of distrust to get over. Go take her down to the hospital ward first off and see if you can find Turquoise anywhere. Maybe he can get her to open up a bit. All of this before you start looking for Mahogany. Got it?"
She lifted her head to watch them come out. The one in silver--he was a tall white rat, a pale grayish mask around his eyes--cast a glance at her as he passed, and he didn't seem too pleased. He bore scratch marks on his arms and she had to suppress her own smirk as he went by. The one in copper--shorter, with dark coppery fur and eyes to match--followed and what little bit of a smile had started forming on her face vanished. He gestured at her.
"Follow," he said in Roma. She had no idea where he'd learned to speak that. Was it mandatory to learn it, now?
As she stood up a third, the one in gold, taller than the copper one and with tawny fur, came out. He smiled at her and she felt like gagging herself.
"Men," she muttered in Roma, to the shorter rat's surprise, and started off down the hall on her own. He had to hurry to catch up with her.
"Look," he said, coming up beside her as she walked rapidly toward where she assumed the hospital ward was. "I understand if you don't trust anyone here. But to continue to distrust is a mistake. Would you rather have been left to be shot out there? It would have been very easy to pass you by, but we have a job to do, the same as you."
She glared at him out of the corner of her eye. "What do you know of my 'job,' Gadjo?"
"I know you would have preferred to die out there, for one thing. Understandable. But the more trouble you cause for us the more trouble you cause for others. Say you would like to die. If there are ten others of your kind out there would you like us to let them die as well?"
She blinked and her face went white, but just for a moment. Then the color rose in her cheeks; she could feel it burning in her ears and had to bite her tongue.
"Just come to the hospital ward, then go to the compound and cause no trouble. What you decide to do afterwards is your own choice. While you're here, you abide by our rules."
She glared ahead again. Her tongue stung from the pressure her teeth were applying to it.
The rat watched her for a moment more, as if to make sure she wasn't going to cause any trouble, before turning back to watch where he was going. She made certain to keep a few steps ahead of him so he walked always behind her, as was fitting.