As she sailed in a lazy arc from the door of the casino toward the street, Rakel was forced to admit that things had not gone quite as she’d hoped.
Of course, it had looked like they had been until no more than a few minutes ago. She’d found a perfect table, occupied by a yappy little man with rather an optimistic view of his skill at the game, another less irritating man who apparently had money enough to simply throw it around in a casino, and a third with a tell Rakel could see from across the room. Needless to say she had done well. A few lucky hands had put her past doing well to doing superbly, and when the majority of the money on the table was in front of her, the bad gambler had finally snapped and accused her of cheating.
This had been part of the plan. Her goal was to be noticed, and a loud argument with an unpleasant person in which she was clearly in the right wasn’t a bad way to accomplish it. What she hadn’t expected was for him to throw his chair back, point, shout, “You’re a dirty cheater!” and dive over the table at her. In fact, she hadn’t expected it to the extent that he’d landed his first punch. That was where it started to go wrong.
In hindsight, Rakel thought, it would have been wise to change Two’s instructions regarding threats to her safety to something a bit more subtle. The construct had charged across the room, tossing tables and gamblers alike aside, and grabbed her assailant and casually thrown him into the nearest wall.
Rakel hadn’t counted on such a strong display of unity from the rest of the room. There had been a moment of silence, broken only by the mewling of the gambler lying in a heap on the foor, and then as one everyone else had charged at her. She took a swing at the first one, and was willing to bet that she’d broken his nose. The next four got her by the arms, and as more closed in she’d realized that there wasn’t much to gain by further resistance. She’d sent Two away, and after taking a running start, it had crashed through the front wall while Rakel steeled herself for the inevitable roughing up.
It hadn’t been as bad as she expected. One of them hit her in the gut with a table leg Two had broken off on its way out, and another had lectured her on proper behavior and the limited patience of hosts for party crashers. The one with the table leg had given her another whack, and then they’d pitched her out the door.
The paving stones rose to meet her. Distantly, she heard the casino’s door slam. She blinked, and one of the door guards was standing over her. “We did warn you,” he said, and absently kicked her in the ribs before going back to his post.
She tried to take a deep breath, and a heartbeat later decided that was a very bad idea. She got up on her hands and knees and found a piece of debris from Two’s explosive exit which would do as a makeshift crutch. With it to lean on, she managed to get to her feet, one arm curled over her stomach. She’d taken worse hits, but not by much, and this one was going to hurt for a while. The thugs watched her unsteady progress down the street with obvious amusement.
It was half an hour before Two found her. She tossed aside the crutch and let the construct carry her. She would have liked to go back to her safehouse, but that would have been unwise. It wasn’t much good as an emergency hideout if people knew it was there, and she had no doubt someone was tailing her. Besides, it was far too early in the game to reveal just how prepared she was.
She had Two stop at the first cozy-looking inn they came to, and managed to keep her back straight long enough to send Two around to loom in the alley behind the inn, arrange for a room, and buy ink, a pen, and a piece of paper. She climbed the stairs, found her room, and all but collapsed onto the bed. Holding the paper against the wall, she wrote “DO NOT DISTURB” in very large print and set it on the nightstand. She curled up, failing to put the pain out of her mind, and reflected that, even though she hadn’t planned to take the rest of the day off, plans change.