There was blood in the air.
She could smell it, taste it. There were other scents, too. He'd pissed himself, and before all this, the hooker he'd been underwhelming had run out of the room, so she could smell the sex. The cheap disinfectant the staff used the clean the place in between clients, too. Cheaper booze and stale cigarette smoke. A tang of marijuana, faint, maybe from the next room. A dozen smells that produced the soupy stink she thought of as 'cheap hotel'.
But above or perhaps beyond it all, was the rancid aroma of pure fear.
Sharpe grinned down at the target. That's how she'd come to think of them all now: targets. Nothing more, less than humans. He was skinny, pale, and naked. Tied down to the bed with plastic cinch cuffs. She'd burst into the room, letting the underage call girl go and knocking him out cold with a solid blow to the side of his head. While he was out, she'd secured him. When he'd woke up, he'd struggled, but not for long.
He could tell he was caught, and was now staring up at her with the primal intensity of a hunted thing finally trapped. She watched his chest rise and fall rapidly, then slipped her gaze up to his harrowed face, his wide eyes, not quite blank with terror. She imagined he could see himself in the reflection of her obsidian sunglasses.
"Who-who are you?" he managed. "What do you want? Look, my credits are in my pants...just...please, take them and go."
She allowed a small, tight smile to grow on her face, and the effect it had on the man was like loosing a dagger from its sheath. He moaned sightly and shivered, briefly looking away from her. Licking his lips, he returned his gaze.
He tried once again. "Who are you?"
"Sharpe," she said.
Nothing. No recognition. Not that she expected it. He was small-timer, not even on the crew that had wasted her lover. He was a gofer, a little punk that ran courier assignments and delivered little packages between the guys with bigger teeth. Which was exactly why she was here. Sharpe leaned in closer, smiling a little more, showing teeth.
She definitely had bigger teeth than this little punk.
"You're delivering a package. Who and where?" she asked.
"Tommy!" he cried. "Tommy, over on Paradise Street, the Sunset Club! He's there now, was gonna bring it when I was done!"
Sharpe frowned. He'd cracked so easily it was disappointing. She'd brought a knife with her, one she'd purchased just for the occasion, and now it looked like she wouldn't get to use it. She stared at him a little bit longer.
"Where is the package?" she asked.
"There!" he said, jerking his head to his right, towards his pile of hastily discarded clothes. "In my pants, right front pocket."
Sharpe moved slowly over to it, taking her time. She dropped into a crouch and sorted through his clothes. She found a little knife that she tossed away, a credit chip that she tucked into her pocket, and an infoclip.
"What is it?" she asked.
"I don't know," he said. Sharpe stood up, turned towards him and eagerly pulled out the knife. "I don't know!" he cried, suddenly struggling again. "Please! Please! They don't tell me!" he moaned, giving up the struggles once more, slumping bonelessly.
Sharpe sighed. "Fine," she said. "I want more out of you." She came over and put one foot on the bed. Leaning forward, the bed creaking in protest at bearing her great weight, she put the knife up to his neck, stopping just short of actually touching him.
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Blood & Tears (A Shadow Wars Companion)Short Story
A companion short story to Absolute Zero. Before Arctica, before the horrors that stalked bloody corridors, before she met Trent and Drake, Susan Sharpe was a mercenary in love. After drifting the stars as a gun for hire, Sharpe unexpectedly met the...