Week 34.5 – Belling the Cat

Previously: Yi Fan tricked the Cobalt Czar into trying on the golden mask, but nothing happened. As she turned to leave, the Czar called, “Hey!” And now…

But he was only holding out the canvas messenger bag. “Take this with you,” he said. “It smells bad.”

Yi Fan forced another smile and turned back to retrieve the bag from the Czar. He was right. It did stink, with that musty, oily smell of old waterproofed canvas. As she walked toward the door, trying not to hurry, she wondered what had gone wrong. She needed to talk to Twain to see if he had any ideas.

Once out of the Czar’s chambers, she turned toward the dungeons. She nodded toward a team of workmen as she passed; they averted their eyes and worked all the harder. After she passed, she could see their reflections in the shiny marble that served as wainscotting in these main corridors, and saw them watching her depart. She had always thought those stares after she passed were stares of fear and hate, but now she wondered if perhaps they might be checking her out from behind. Could they actually find her attractive and just not have the nerve to admit it?

The thought seemed alien, and yet, Twain had brought out the beginnings of confidence in her own attractiveness. When she looked in a mirror, all she could see was the scar on her face that extended into the white streak in her hair. But the scar didn’t show from behind. So what, exact;y, were they looking at?

She noticed her stride picking up an extra bounce and smiled in spite of herself as she approached the door leading to the dungeons. Would these men notice the extra sway of her hips, the extra jiggle in her behind. Would they be jealous of Twain if they learned of her feelings toward him?

[blockquote type=”blockquote_line” align=”right”]She recognized the Chinese man the Ghost had fought, the one who had nearly killed her…[/blockquote]She was reaching for the door when it burst open and a short round-eye ran into her. Another man exited the door, and she recognized the Chinese man the Ghost had fought, the one who had nearly killed her. He gaped at her for a second, then made as if to run past her, but she grabbed his arm. “Where’s Twain?” she asked. “Where’s the American?”

“We’re all Americans,” the Chinese man said in accented Mandarin, “But we think he’s being tortured now.”

She let go of the man’s arm, and he took the opportunity to run away. She really should stop the two of them, but her greater duty–of the heart if not the state–was to rescue Twain. And even though he had said that torture was their only hope of success, she didn’t believe it.

She descended stairs and wound through subterranean corridors until she approached the door she sought. Everything down here looked somewhat dirty, but this particular door had a dinginess all its own, a miasma that seemed to exude from the very steel. Behind the door, she heard a scream.


She opened the door and rushed in, saw Twain strapped to a chair with the Mechanic standing beside him, holding a sledgehammer. Damn.

Events have been set in motion. What will happen next? Don’t miss next week’s exciting chapter of Run, Digger, Run!

To read from the beginning, click here

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