HARD

CHAPTER 19

‘The Guild of the Coin’, found during the early days after what was commonly known as “The Last War’. It’s been said a group unknown met and counselled, thus established a system of trade and trust, governed by an elected few. The club granted perks of safe passage, privileged trades and information. The ‘Coin’ soon became somewhat of a cult, a legend of puppeteers, pulling strings in the background. They flourished in the absence of a physical government, only a secret shared among many, and with that a power to dictate life from the shadows, all in the pretext of preventing newer wars to come.

Emma was a member who served in that shadow. She cleaned and the cooked under the guise of a supposed prerogative. She was paid in meals and lodging, just a tiny corner nearby the kitchen, approximate to where she handled the daily toil. The masters kept to themselves. They did a trade nobody understood, but its lucrative nature and their sudden rise to fame raised red flags among rivals and the Coin alike. They were the kingmakers of their town and everyone knew the Commonwealths.

However, as spies would recount, they only painted a mask of luxury hiding a desolate sadness of drunkenness and constant violence. Through the whispers tunnelling the peepholes and vents, Emma would hear screaming, shouting and shattering objects. When the wives were fed up, the husbands would leave, and find brothels to cool down in. Then, there were the maids themselves as in stand-ins, both by the husbands and the wives.

Emma recalled when Lucio first stormed in the kitchen and woke the youngest of them. ‘Noooo,’ the girl shrilled still half asleep in her white overalls while her hair was pulled across the room. Perhaps it was pity or revenge of a mixture of both that made Emma volunteer instead to take her place.

‘You want THAT thing?’ the wife smashed her glass against the wall in envy, blooding her hands while Emma faked intense pleasure with every painful thrust she bore, just so the lady would see her face and burn on the inside.

Something flipped inside Lucio that night. He became addicted to her. The wife had long left, and Emma had to literally move things around her schedule just to make time for him. It was that or the job, and she needed the job, at least for just a few months more until she had gathered enough intel.

Emma was a diligent coin holder. She wielded the power of gossip, secrets, and information and danced with it gracefully as you would a sword. She fooled the house to think the coin was some sort of heirloom, but she alone knows the lengths she went through to be accepted. It was a task, that was all it was.

‘FUCK’ she cursed. Nauseated, bloated, she knew what it meant.

‘You mean?’ her friend queried, shocked.

‘I think so,’

‘Well,’

‘I would fuck things up, and he mustn’t know,’ Emma closed her lips with her finger, warning her to stay quiet.

That evening, they covered themselves with drabs and scurried into the marketplace after hours to find to the merchants’ household.

‘You sure he’ll help?’

‘He was a doctor once, he would know,’ she banged on the door 3 times and an old man open a slit. Emma showed the coin, angling herself in a way her friend wouldn’t see.

The door opened and they were welcomed in.

‘Yes?’ a scruffy, dishevelled man tried standing up, after downing what seemed like his third whisky.

‘I figure it’s been 2 weeks. Take it out. You have pills right?’ Emma spoke brazenly.

‘You think you’re the only one? Pills run out,’

‘Then?’

‘We’ll have to do it the old fashion way,’

Her friend gripped tight Emma’s shoulder.

‘Will it be painful?’ Emma asked.

‘Yes,’

**

Lucio came home the following day upset to hear that Emma was sick.

‘Where the hell is she?’ he yelled, burning in his loins.

‘Sorry,’ the maids cowered and kept slipping his line of sight, afraid. Nobody was willing to take Emma’s place.

‘Emma?’ he shouted.

‘Yes,’ she shouted, coming out of her little living space, wobbling in pain.

‘You look pale,’

‘I’ve… been… working…’ she lied.

‘Turn around,’

She placed his palm on his chest. ‘I’m not in the mood, it’s the end of my cycle,’

‘Never stopped us before,’ he flipped her over the kitchen counter and pressed her breasts against its hard, cold surface. Some of the servants fled while the voyeurs remained, holding on to the horror. Lucio noticed Emma was bleeding quite heavily. ‘You weren’t kidding,’ he raised her skirt before forcefully inserting himself. Emma gasped and tried to maintain her calm, breathing, focused, clenching her teeth. ‘Soon,’ she told herself. ‘Just fucking soon.’

There was a still silence respectfully accompanying the shock, paced by the painful shrieking of the woman and heavy wood scratching against the tiles. The door to the kitchen slammed open, scattering those that remained.

Lucio turned around to see a man and a woman in denim and leather. They were both blonde and packed gun but Lucio didn’t bother. Emma squealed as he went faster and faster while the strangers patiently waited for him to finish.

‘Arghhhh!’ she screamed as she felt the widest tear push in against her, as clots much larger dropped and splattered over the ground. Lucio had his itch scratched, satisfied and exhausted. ‘Clean this up,’ he said last to her before he walked over to the strangers.

‘Yes?’

‘The blonde woman handed him a note.’ Lucio. intrigued started to unfold it.

It read, ‘LUCAS, DEAD OR ALIVE, 10,000R’

‘Lucas?’

‘Yes,’

‘He’s alive?’

‘Yes,’ the blonde man answered, his eye fixed on Emma, biting his lip.

Lucio allowed him to drift off as he continued to converse with the woman. ‘So, that means,’

‘Yes,’ the woman nodded her head, ‘he finally showed back up at the continent. The enterprise he was building across the sea obviously didn’t…’

‘He wasted mother’s money,’ Lucio chuckled, trailing off into a sinister smile.

‘Your whore? She for sale?’ asked the woman.

‘You want some?’ the three of them peered at Emma as she was half-way scrubbing the floors with a washcloth, wiping off the blood and semen. She shamefully avoided eye contact, especially from the woman.

‘Maybe later,’ the strangers laughed and accompanied Lucio outside, shutting the door behind them.

‘Emma!’ a voice whispered. Her friend approached her from the back and pulled the drenched cloth away from her. She raised Emma to her feet, wobbling knees and everything, gathering up her fallen pieces of dignity, and a few others joined to guide her back to her mattress. Emma was allowed to lie down, curled up in the foetal position, with several loose cloths packed between her legs to help control the bleeding.

‘Here. Have some water. I’ll bring some rice and pork,’ one of them walked out.

Her friend sat beside her, brushing her hair, caressing her scalp to comfort her. ‘Thank you,’ Emma shed a tear.

‘Why haven’t you run, Emma?’

‘A promise.’ Emma drifted to a partial slumber.

‘To whom?’

‘Kimmy,’ she whispered before falling deep into an anaemic slumber. ‘I told Kimmy… I’ll be…back,’

**

The roads were blocked with the company’s trucks, along with their boats docked at the jetty. Everyone waiting to meet the boss for further instructions.

Lucio headed out to greet them.

‘You brought the whole cavalry here for this,’

The blonde man called out to the others. ‘It’s big money,’

‘It’s also family,’

The blonde woman jumped up to the back of a truck, she inspected some of the goods. ‘Grade A shit,’ she said while removing an unloaded M-16 from the crate while fiddling with its mechanisms. Firearms were her forte, that and her ass. Her insight into combat strategies just added a good reason for Lucio to keep her around.

‘There are also stories,’ the blonde man replied.

‘Stories?’

‘Yes,’ the woman blew the lingering dust over the crosshairs. ‘It seems the fort was destroyed from within, with help from the tornados.’

‘What are you saying?’

‘A rebellion, or something.’

‘Funny thing about slavery, it’s not about putting pressure on the lid, but keeping it delicate enough, that it lets out a steam every now and then, but never blows it’s top off.’

‘That’s not all,’ the woman continued, ‘they say it was caused by women.

‘What do you mean “women”?’ Lucio was getting impatient with the slow tease.

‘I mean a couple of strange lollies walked right in and blew the whole thing down while he was getting his dick sucked on top of his ivory tower.’

‘Oh Lucas,’ he continued to shake his head in disappointment.

A rider approached, engines roaring. Lucio quickly hopped on the back. ‘Well, we better get him before the wolves do,’

‘It’s a lot of money. How are you sure they haven’t got to him yet?’

‘I know the lengths he will go through to survive. We are cut from the same bark, unfortunately.’

The bike sped off as the company split ways. The blonde man headed back to the front of the truck. ‘You coming?’ he asked. The woman was distracted.

‘Yeah’ she answered, her gaze fixed on Emma from earlier, outside the house, holding a basket of laundry, collecting dried garments from the steel wire. Their eyes met for a strong second.

‘I’m sorry,’ the blonde woman whispered, any moment about to lose herself and cry having witnessed what happened in the kitchen.

Emma shook her head and smiled, reassuring the woman that she was fine, and quickly went back about her chores hoping nobody was quick enough to notice the exchange.

‘Hey, Rose, we don’t got all day,’ the blonde man shouted from the driver’s seat window.

‘Go fuck yourself Ritz,’ she answered and walked to the front of the truck, getting a view of the Commonwealth household, and the strange girl, watching them leave from a window above. Emma’s friend; who was starting to develop a dangerous intuition that perhaps there was something more about Emma and this blonde woman.

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