This week’s Friday Fiction is hosted by the talented Karlene Jacobsen @ her blog, Dancin’ in the rain. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author’s Ramblings: I’m late. *eyeroll* Well, obviously today has been a bit more hectic than others and I’ve taken my time on working out today’s Friday fiction. I thought I’d delay the debut of this new serial a bit longer, but that seems to have me constantly rewriting the opening scene, so I’m just going to post it and quit harping over it. LOL. Since summer is here and I have the time at the moment, I’ve decided to start a new serial, featuring a traveling trio. I haven’t finished the actual summary/character shorts yet, so those might come either later this weekend or next Friday. For today, please read, comment and enjoy! Thanks a bunch. ^_^

Ebony threaded her way through the crowded club, dodging dancing strangers and ducking behind couples as she made her way to the counter. The bearded bartender gave her a look, but didn’t stop in his counter wiping, instead, pushing a stack of wooden tiles towards her. She forced a smile, taking the stack as she climbed onto an empty stool, thumbing quickly through the tiles. There were various symbols carved onto the front of each wooden tile and she finally handed the stack back, with a blank tile on the top instead of the snapshot of mountain scenery.
His eyebrows waggled upwards, but he reached under the counter and pulled out a glass mug, shoveling in some ice and reaching for the taps. His hands twitched faintly over a few heads, before he turned around and moved to the fridge. A pitcher of cream was found, and he filled the glass halfway, adding a touch of club soda and then chocolate syrup. A few seconds later, he handed over the finished concoction and the teenaged girl took it with a grateful smile.
“Thank you.” The words were whispered as Ebony wrapped her hands around the newly warmed mug and lifted it to her lips. As her mouth filled with the warm, fizzy, sweetness, she cast a careful glance at the other patrons sharing the counter with her. Careful to keep her gaze shaded beneath the newsboy cap, she sipped the drink carefully.
There were a handful of others, most of them fairly ordinary in either party getup or a business suit and tie. She quickly filed them away in her mind for later thought along the lines of college students and frazzled career men. Fiddling with the glass handle, she turned the mug in circles.
Something about the very ordinary atmosphere of the club was rubbing her the wrong way. There was the classic round of pounding music, flashing lights, quiet coves and drunk customers. It wasn’t the kind of place she wanted to be, but it was a place where a free meal could be found in a pinch.
As if on cue, a thick turkey sandwich was slid in front of her on a small, white ceramic plate. Two party toothpicks held the halves together and a small glass of milk accompanied it. Ebony snuck an upward glance from beneath the hat’s brim. The bartender calmly wiped the counter, occasionally slopping a few soapy suds with a rumpled sponge.
Her smile was hidden in the first bite and the rest of the sandwich disappeared in a matter of minutes. Wiping her mouth on the paper napkin, Ebony settled on the task of quietly slurping her milk through a straw. Her uneasy gaze swept the counter occupants again, this time, settling on two mismatched figures. 
A lovely, thin-faced young woman, traced circles around a ceramic mug, occasionally nudging the fellow beside her with one foot and readjusting her long, blonde ponytail, tied together with a fancy blue-silver ribbon. The man didn’t seem to be paying any attention to her, pausing once in the business on his laptop to adjust his long white coat and matching beret. 
Ebony slurped softly, her brow furrowed in thought. She couldn’t put her finger on why it didn’t match, but she didn’t think that it was that cold out either. Her hands reached for her original drink, rewarmed in the time she’d been sipping the milk. Finishing the milk, she pushed the empty mug away, curling her fingers around the rewarmed chocolate concoction.
Her mind was still buzzing in a way that meant the food and drink was helping—just not fast enough.
The restless swirl of unease in her stomach came out in the form of the wary gaze beginning to settle into a routine sweep of the club’s occupants. It lingered a little longer on the mismatched pair and Ebony finally let herself stare at them when she simply couldn’t take it anymore.
The blonde woman was sorting through a black knapsack and the fellow in white was beginning to pack up his laptop. A tiny, clear cube fell to the floor and Ebony nearly choked on her drink. A faint flicker of red-yellow glowed from the center and the cube seemed to go unnoticed as a sudden, restless murmur spread throughout the club.
Her glass was suddenly tugged from her fingers and Ebony was jerked back to the moment at hand. She opened her mouth to protest, but the bartender gave the faintest shake of his head. That was all that she needed to slid off the stool and aim for the exit. Not daring to look back, she dodged through the throng of newly panicked dancers, angling towards the opposite end of the counter where the mismatched duo had been. 
With a clenching motion of one hand, she mentally pulled the cube from the floor and into her outstretched hand, pushing out with the crowd through the side exit door as the first screams began to fill the night air. 
A police raid… She thought, dully, tossing the cube lightly in her hand before consciously stopping the effort. It was far too valuable a thing to treat so lightly. A frown registered and after a moment’s hesitation, Ebony popped the cube in her mouth and swallowed with a grimace.
That was the safest way to handle it at the moment.
She dodged to the side, drawing lightly on her elemental gift of air to move quickly from the throng of stampeding clubbers. It hadn’t been a wasted afternoon—just an unfinished one. Jamming her hands into her jacket pocket, Ebony began the calm walk away from the scene, mentally thumbing through her next options. This was currently too small a town for her to find out anything truly useful, perhaps the next one would have better pickings.
“Just how to get there.” She mused, aloud, standing at the street corner and waiting for the crossing signal. In the distance, she could hear the sirens and the shouts, stifling a slight wince.
A blur of white caught her eye as the signal changed. The white flutter seemed to have vanished as Ebony hurried across the street, too busy walking to realize her path until she walked directly into the soft body. “Ow!” There was a muffled grunt and she peered out from beneath the hat’s brim to see the blonde lady from the mismatched couple staring sadly down at her.
“Uh, erm, I’m really sorry, I should watch where I’m going.” Ebony tried to pull away, ducking her head. There was something off about the face and the eyes and it didn’t settle right with her at all. She needed to get out of there—now!
“No, I’m sorry. I really don’t like doing this.”
A soft, gloved hand clapped over her mouth and something sweet and gritty was forced inside, the fingers pinching her nose, forcing her swallow in order to breath. Sudden warmth spread through her body as her muscles began to slacken, her body growing increasingly limp.
There was no time to react to that, because a sharp pain in her neck was the last sensation that registered as the blackness claimed her.
© Sara Harricharan
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