Leon’s eyes danced between Jared and me. “Janine wouldn’t have said anything. She’s not stupid.”
“Are you sure about that?” I asked. “Are you sure she’d be so tight-lipped if, say, someone had done this right before her very eyes?” Using the energy I’d absorbed from around me, I manipulated it into my energy whip. Leon blanched.
“Janine had pretty much the same reaction,” Jared told him. “But come on, are you really that shocked when you’re wrapped in ooze and you watched someone take your gun without even touching it?”
Leon swallowed hard again. He was trembling now. “I snorted a lot of shit earlier.”
“Ah, and you’re hoping to convince yourself it’s just the drugs?” I had to smile at that. “I can promise you right now, Leon, you are certainly not hallucinating or dreaming. I could pinch you just so you can be sure? Or maybe I’ll just do this.” I cracked my whip at him, catching his earlobe. Leon jerked, hissing.
“I recommend you get talking,” said Jared, his voice grave. “I’m not a patient person at the best of times, but the last couple of days have tried me in ways you can’t imagine. I’m not in a good frame of mind.” He leaned forward, putting himself at eye level with Leon. “I want the name of the person who’s running this operation.” I knew that Jared doubted he knew a detail such as that, but it was always worth asking.
“What are you people?”
Jared’s smile wasn’t nice. “You don’t want to know. Trust me on that. Now, I believe you were going to tell me his name.”
“I don’t know his name, I don’t know any names.”
Jared rolled his eyes. “It’s like groundhog day. They always say the same shit.” He gave Max a short nod. Understanding, Max opened his fist and closed it – robbing Leon of the ability to speak. When the human realised that not one of his words were at all audible, his eyes almost bugged out of his drawn face.
Jared’s unpleasant smile returned. “We wouldn’t want anyone hearing you scream, would we?” With that, he raised one hand and placed his fingertips against Leon’s forehead. Leon’s mouth opened in a silent scream as currents of electricity zinged through him, making his entire body shake. Ten seconds later, Jared stopped. He signalled for Max to give Leon back his ability to speak. “His name.”
Leon, panting and shaking his head, said, “I swear I don’t know. I can’t tell you what I don’t know.”
Jared sighed. “Max.” Once Leon had again lost his ability to vocalise, Jared again repeated his torturous process. It was fifteen seconds this time before he stopped and allowed Max to undo what he’d done. “I want his name.”
“Please, please, please listen to me. I don’t know his name.” Seeing that Jared was again about to give Max a signal, Leon quickly cried, “But I’ll tell you what I do know, I swear.”
I cocked my head at him. “And what is it, exactly, that you do know? It better be good, Leon.”
“My part in the whole thing is simple. I receive a text message with the name of a shopping mall or something like that. I send Janine there, and I wait for her to contact me with a description of the woman she’s drugged. I relay this info to the Deliverer in a text message. That’s all.”
That’s consistent with what Janine said, I reminded Jared. “You must know the Deliverer’s name, at the very least.”
“I don’t, I’ve never once heard her voice. I only know she’s a woman because Janine saw her from afar a few times. We only communicate using text messages, and I delete them afterwards like I was instructed when I first got the job.”
I arched a brow. “Oh yeah? And what were these instructions?”
“Wait for text messages, don’t act until I receive any, never talk of the operation to anyone, and only ever drug the women with the drug that they leave with the money.”
“So how do you get the drug and your wages if you don’t come face-to-face with anyone?”
“Every month, I’m sent a text message with the address of wherever they’ve hidden the money and the drug. Sometimes it’s in a public bathroom, sometimes it’s in a phone booth, or hidden in a bush near the local park. I never know where the stuff’s going to be, and I never see anyone. These people are very secretive. Paranoid, even.”
Jared sniggered. “You expect us to believe that you’ve never seen even one face, you’ve never heard even one name?”
“I haven’t, I swear—”
Sighing in annoyance, Jared nodded at Max. A stream of words came out of a petrified Leon, but none were audible. “Oh, you’ve remembered something.” Instead of electrocuting him, Jared again nodded at Max, who returned Leon’s ability to speak. “What’s that now?”
Leon was almost sobbing. “When I first met the person who recruited me, she introduced herself as Wendy. Janine’s description of the Deliverer matched the Wendy I spoke to: a middle-aged blonde who wore glasses.”
I knew he was telling the truth about that part at least. It was the same description that Jude and Janine had given us.
“Where’s your cell phone?” Jared asked him.
“The kitchen counter.”
I retrieved the phone. “Is the number saved in your contact list?”
Leon nodded. “Under the name ‘Del’. Short for Deliverer.”
I exhaled heavily and gave him a bright smile. “Well, that’s all. You’ve been quite helpful. More than I thought, considering you lack a conscience.”
He sneered. “You can be moral and law abiding when life’s going good. I’ll bet none of you know what it’s like to have nothing, to be so damn hungry you were rummaging through a garbage can, to just need one hit.”
I knew more about poverty than he thought, but I had no wish to explain myself to him. I shrugged. “Then I guess we’re doing you a favour by letting our friend here end your pitiful existence.” His face became a question mark. “Leon…Meet Jude.”
Looking at myself in my oval mirror a few hours later, I groaned in exasperation. When Fletcher had knocked on the door and thrust a shopping bag at me, I’d known what would be inside, and I’d known it would be revealing. Of course if Fletcher was here, he would have disagreed; he would have said that the blood-red satin dress was ‘flattering’ and ‘skin tight’. In reality, it was revealing.