Until Thursday night.
“Where’s Septima?” His mother came back from the kitchen. “If she’s eating out, which she might have told me about, she doesn’t have to wash up, but it’s her week to put the bins out for garbage night.”
“I’ll do it,” Terris volunteered quickly.
At the same time Octavia, their youngest sister, said, “I don’t think she’s been home since Tuesday.” She kept track of the detail of such things but not the why of them except, “She went out with Terris to do something about his racer.”
“So,” their father looked up from his book, “Where did you go and why didn’t she come home with you?”
Some time and a certain amount of yelling later Terris, his father’s hand iron hard on his shoulder, was knocking on the door of his parts supplier. The man, middle aged and pudgy, looked half asleep when he opened the door. “Oh,” he was mildly surprised that he’s been asked the question. “I thought I made that clear. The parts were on consignment, she was passed to the seller on the day.” He caught the other man’s eye over Terris’ shoulder. “Wait here, I’ll get the address.” He shuffled back into the house and returned a few moments later with a freshly written piece of paper. “Here you are. He’s planning on turning her to book keeping or some such thing he said.”
It was three establishments later and almost midnight. The room was large and moodily lit. A six man group at the far side of the room sang pop-rock at a civilized sound level that both allowed the music to be heard and conversation to take place – they were actually good. The room was crowded with tables, upholstered chairs and divans – all occupied by men. The men drank, talked and, in few brighter spots, played cards. The decor suggested one very particular type of men’s club. The behaviour of the occupants suggested a completely different one.
The man in charge sat in a throne-like chair on a dais at one end of the room. He was large, blond and sprawled comfortably between the chair’s arms, aided by a well placed footstool. Sitting curled against his right leg, her dark hair pinned up and her face invisible from their angle because she seemed to be gazing at the floor, was a young woman. Another blond haired man was leaning over her shoulder, their heads so close together they must be cheek-to-cheek. His right hand rested on the floor in front of them to take some of his weight and as he was naked to the waist they could see the hackles of hair that ran down his spine to his shoulder blades.
They were noticed. “Terrence and Terris,” the blond on the throne greeted them with out moving, his tone holding something of both satisfaction and menace, “To what do we owe the pleasure? Oh, let me guess. You’ve just discovered the boy missed the rider in his lessons on achieving his ambitions that he should stop short of selling his sisters into slavery with old family enemies.”
Terrence, the father drew himself up. “I should have expected the Desiderii to have degenerated to hanging out in a,” he glanced around, “Pick up joint. And my son is entitled to use his unmarried sister as collateral.”
“Oh,” the blond feigned surprise, “And when was he planning to redeem her? And you know what they say: work hard, play hard, fight hard.” He smiled nastily.
“We’re here to discuss redeeming her now,” Terrence said firmly. “How much?”
“A Ghivano Performance Long Block engine assembly.” Terris took a deep, shocked breath – he’d known the parts were good, but that good?. “Two Porini axles, with gears and carbon brakes. A Ghivano Performance Competition transmission. To say nothing of a Sebasta supercharger.” The blond smiled. “All factory new. We’ll say, seventy five thousand ruspone. Between friends. Are you good for it?”
Terrence replied stiffly, “You know that I’m not.”
“I might add,” the blond’s smile tightened into something more feral, “Your son said she’s too shy to be use to anyone. I can assure you that, handled properly, she’s not shy at all.” He dropped his hand to the hair of the girl at his leg and tilted her face up. It was Septima, the collar around her neck and the leash tied to the chair leg now clearly visible. The man leaning over her looked directly at them too, his eyes gleaming red. “I’ve changed her name, by the way. Septima for a seventh daughter, with her sisters either side called Sextia and Octavia, seemed to me to lack interest or imagination. Possibly both.”
“I’ll fight you for her,” Terrence said.
“Is that what you think?” The enthroned man raised an eyebrow. “Little one,” he spoke gently to Septima, “You don’t need to be here for this.” He untied the leash and handed it to the red-eyed blond on the floor beside her. “Rodolfo, put her to bed and settle her in.” He waited while the other man stood, helped Septima to her feet and then led her from the room, the leash in one hand and the other around her waist. “One of my half-brothers,” he tossed the explanation in Terrence’s direction. “He’s good with her and she seems to be good for him. I may give her to him permanently.”
“I’ve heard your father was indiscriminate,” Terrence proved he could be as nasty as the blond. Terris looked uncomfortable.
“But you’ve never heard that any of us ever sold off any of our sisters, in any degree, for personal ambition,” the blond riposted quietly. “Let’s talk terms.”