Chapter 2: Minor notes

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"Well, that was quite the show," Isla mumbled.

I turned around, saw my boss and her gorilla standing behind me, and cursed under my breath. The image of the omen lay fresh in my mind; it was an image I feared I wouldn't lose as long as I lived. However long that would be. But death on my doorstep wouldn't be my problem until I actually saw it appear in front of me. The two people who'd been ready to throw me out of a window mere minutes ago were a far more dangerous threat right now.

Isla sniffed the air, no doubt smelling that same rotten stench I did. Her expression was a thoughtful one, contemplative. She'd expected this omen as little as I'd done, and I figured she had as many questions as I did. Different questions, though: while I wondered what I'd done to deserve this, she must have been trying to think of ways to use this change in my situation to her advantage somehow.

"You may want to invest in air freshener," she advised me, and Charlie grunted out a 'yes' in agreement. How peculiar. I hadn't thought him capable of verbal communication. But when I heard his rough voice, my eyes were drawn to his arms as thick as elephant legs again, and my brain snapped back into panic mode. I hadn't been able to use this unexpected ghastly visit to plan my next move.

That meant I had to make do with my most unfavourable last resort. I could perish, or I could beg.

I sank to my knees, bare flesh slamming into cold maple wood, and bowed so deep it must've looked like I'd start french-kissing my floor. "Isla, please," I began, throwing the last of my dignity away and into the fire. "Let me off the hook for now, I beg you! I'll do anything! You, you can't be so heartless you'll torture a man who just heard he's going to die… Right? Right?"

Silence. I didn't dare look up, afraid I'd lock eyes with her and see a total absence of mercy. What if she was death on my doorstep? She could order Charlie to  kneel next to me right now and bash my head into my own floor until there was nothing left of my face but a bloody pulp. My life was in her hands, and I held my breath, afraid, anticipating, waiting for pain.

It didn't come. Instead, a black combat boot poked me in the head. "Get up, loser. We need to have a serious chat."

Reluctantly, I looked up at her. "A chat that won't end with me in critical condition at the hospital…?"

Isla turned to Charlie the Barbarian with a bored look in her eyes. "Change of plans. How about you wait for me in the car? I'll handle this myself."

She hadn't actually answered my question, which was a cause for concern, but I considered not having to spend more time in Charlie's crushing grip a good sign nevertheless. The thug nodded and followed the order, shoving past me as he made his way outside. I couldn't resist sighing in relief when he closed the door behind him. One intruder left, one more to go.

I stared sheepishly at Isla in front of me, paralysed, like a deer caught in headlights. It seemed like the best survival tactic: if I didn't move and stayed as still as I could, the predator wouldn't pounce. That was how it worked, wasn't it? All of a sudden, I wasn't sure. I'd never considered myself prey before.

Isla's earlier threats of using physical violence against me left us with a healthy dose of awkward silence. She was the first to break it. "Get dressed," she commanded, an absent-minded look in her eyes. Her brain was still occupied with that something that popped into her head when she saw the omen. "I'm not having this conversation if I need to stare at your ugly, hairy legs the whole time. And don't even think about fleeing while I'm waiting. I'd hunt you down, I promise."

When my boss made promises, she kept them. If I'd had any hopes at all of making a quick escape, it was gone by the time I rushed up the stairs. I tried to figure out if the excessive thinking Isla had been doing boded well for me or not. And I thought about the omen, the light that had become a dead girl… Just remembering it gave me goosebumps, sent chills coursing through my veins.

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