The mortal patrons stampeded for the door leaving a wake of overturned chairs and smashed glasses. Megs looked around, her good eye hooded as she saw that the only other sign of life was Alek, smirking in the corner.
“Da, Katya, you made a big mistake,” he said, shaking his head. “It was nice to know you. Perhaps you will go home now.”
Megs didn’t have a chance to ask what he meant. Heavy footfalls announced themselves on the wooden stairs. Chichi let out a wheezing laugh, before Megs stepped over and kicked her in the face. There was a spray of blood, yes, and teeth. But at least that woman’s voice wasn’t wheezing anymore.
“What right do you think you have to touch my property?” Boomed the Prince, his face a mask of fury as he stormed out into the main room. His hair was dishevelled, and his face smeared where he’d left his meal in a hurry. His chest was bare, lipstick prints in different colours traced down to where his pants hung low on his hips.
There was a wet mewl of protest from ChiChi at being called hideous. Megs looked over at her bloody lump of a form and then back at the furious prince.
“I don’t see much of a difference.”
The strike lifted her off her feet, and Megs found herself blinking in the ruins of one of the tables. It had broken under her, just as she had broken around it. There was damage deep inside of her where ribs had punctured organs. But mercifully, the spars of wood had missed her chest.
“You will repay me for the damage you have caused,” Pyotr said, spitting onto her face. “Or you will never return across the sea and will replace ChiChi yourself.”
As she lay in the ruins of the table, spittle oozing down her face and neck, Megs reflected that Pyotr wasn’t really all that attractive anymore. Handsome, yes, but he looked like a little boy who had broken one of his toys.
“I never should have allowed a foreigner to this place. You will regret this,” he said, turning on his heel and making for the brothel’s rooms once more. Megs let her head loll back, her eye staring up at the ceiling.
“This sucks ass,” Megs said with a sigh as she started to lift herself off the broken table. There was a spar embedded into her hip, but not too far in. With a grunt, she pulled it out and looked over at Alek. There was something wrong with his face, the way he was leering, but also disappointed. Almost disgusted.
“A shame you are not younger,” he said, standing with a groan. “Or I would offer for you to be mine, and safe from the Prince.”
“I would leave if I were you. The Czarina will be coming for you soon. You should enjoy the last of your freedom,” he said, heading for the door.
Megs nodded, limping after the Sheriff towards the Truck. Danny wouldn’t be happy if she was sent home, but there was only so much shit she could take before she slipped back into her cold place. Which was where she was now.
“You are not worried, why?” Stasya asked, starting up the truck as Megs struggled to haul her broken body into the passenger side.
“I feel it was worth it,” Megs said, pulling her legs into the vehicle, and closing the door after her. “She provoked me on a really, really bad night. She should know better than to say things like that.”
Stasya said nothing for a moment, and megs didn’t bother elaborating.
“She does say inappropriate things, yes. She is also Pyotr’s ghoul. And he is the Prince here.”
Megs watched the dark landscape roll by, and thought to herself that he was a pretty useless Prince. The only time she saw him was at the brothel/bar. No one talked about him unless it was about her first introduction. Instead they talked about Stasya.
“You will help in the bar, doing dishes and laundry for ChiChi for the remainder of your stay. Pyotr enjoys abasement, and ChiChi will be thrilled that you are working for her. If you argue, I will torpor your body and send you back to America.”
“I’m not arguing,” Megs said, resting her forehead against the glass. “But I’m also not American, please stop calling me that.”
“You are from America. You are American.”
“I’m from Canada, I just live there right now,” Megs said, rubbing her good eye. “I’m not American.”
“Is there a difference? You are from the Western block of ‘freedom capitalists’,” Stasya said, lips curling into a sneer. “You drove our country into the ground through an arms race neither side could afford to win or lose. Now you come here and cause us problems. The other student has gone missing and you harm Pytor’s ghoul. You may be Canadian but you are acting American.”
That stung, but not as much as it was meant to.
“What do you mean he’s missing?” Megs asked, turning to look at the Sheriff. “I broke his neck and left him in the Butcher’s room.”
“Perhaps. But broken necks are not fatal to kindred. You did not kill him did you?”
“No. I wanted to, but I didn’t. Kicking a ghoul is one thing, killing someone and risking final death or torpor is another completely.” But that he was missing worried her. Now she wasn’t sure what to expect. Would he retaliate? No, that was the wrong question. When and how would he retaliate?
“I don’t know the details of what he did to you, but I can understand why you hurt him,” Stasya said, pulling up at the Academy’s group of buildings. “There are those that will never respect women, only fear them. Others will see us only as playthings. With those there is no point being friendly. The world is cruel and we must be too. But cruelty is not evil, and therein lies the difficult balance.” Stasya hadn’t moved from her seat yet. She wasn’t even looking at Megs.
“Don’t expect to earn respect, demand it. Otherwise you will be left drifting in the wind, or the plaything of someone like Pyotr.” Stasya glanced over at Megs, and there was no warmth there. Although the Sheriff had been giving her advice, even Megs could see that the generosity ended there.
“And if you fuck up again, I’ll be sending your torpored body back to Capitalist America in a box.”
“Duly noted,” Megs said.