Black Moon Draw (Chapter Five, page 2 of 12)

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The bird is happily holding a conversation with itself. It's waddling around the tray and singing cheerfully. It stops to tug at a piece of cloth poking out from beneath the bench I sat on.

I lean and lift up the top of the seat to reveal storage room underneath it.

Something moves in the depths, and I gasp, dropping the lid. The bird and I exchange a look. After a quick internal debate, I toss pillows onto the other bench and lift the lid once more to peek inside.

There's a man, bound and gagged, inside the bench. His eye is swollen and black, his dark hair mussed. He can't be more than sixteen or seventeen, judging by the knobby arms and legs and the gorgeous tan eyes that go wide with fear when he lifts his head.

I'm really not certain what to think of my host now. Why does he have some poor teenager tied up in his carriage? "You uh . . . need a hand?" I ask.

There's a hesitant nod.

"You aren't a serial killer or someone who hurts women, are you?"

He shakes his head.

Kneeling on the floor, I reach in and untie the ropes at his feet first and then his hands.

He moves slowly, as if he's been tied for a very long time. I pity him, starting to think I shouldn't trust the Red Knight any more than I might the Shadow Knight. There are darkened circles beneath his eyes. He's pale and shaking out of weakness.

"You're in rough shape," I observe. "Can I ask what you're doing in there?"

Shouting grows louder outside. He casts a fearful look towards the door.

"T. . . taken for ransom," he answers in a strained whisper. "We must escape."


He stands, wobbles, and then clutches at the side of the carriage. I take his arms and steady him.

"Can you run?" I ask.

"I will . . . manage. I would rather die fighting than starve in a carriage."

"Better yet - let's not talk about dying at all," I reply.

I'm not sure if he hears me. His eyes are on the tray. He gropes for the bread and stuffs half a loaf in his mouth.

Normally, I'd sit by meekly and wait for the Red Knight to return. I'm usually afraid of upsetting people. Maybe it's the sense of being out of place, the shouts and screams outside, or finding the teen stuffed in a box, but I sense I need to leave quickly. I lean over to pull on the boots by one of the doors. The medallion around my neck smacks my hands and I sit back to study it briefly.

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