The socks were oversized and thin, but they made the concrete floor tolerably cool instead of cold. There was an old oil stain in a corner, extending underneath one of the partitions that defined her area within some much larger, echoing space. From the stain and the slight slope of the floor, Lonnigan deduced she was in an abandoned parking garage, one of the upper floors judging by the temperature of the concrete. It was impossible to jump up from the bunk to see over the partitions; the heavy chain padlocked to the collar around her neck was only about ten feet long. She'd tried to get more data about her surroundings with a gentle Probe outward. In response, the collar had given her what felt like a hard tap to the skull with a piece of sharp rebar.
Once the shock of that pain subsided, she concentrated on her next move.
The bare facts of her condition gave her enough information to make some plans. Her own clothing was gone, replaced by one-size-fits-all hospital scrubs and a pair of men's gray athletic socks. The nanoblock collar felt smooth edged, and smelled like copper and steel; it was fastened by the chain to an eyelet bolted to the floor. Her bunk was similarly bolted down. Mattress and blanket were both clean-smelling. She had neither food nor water, but she had a bucket to piss into.
She sat on the bunk. The thirty or so small puncture wounds in her right thigh had crusted over with dried blood. Her neck hurt but the pain from a split lip and a heavy bruise on her right cheek was worse than that from her leg or neck. There was no meaningful pain anywhere else.
Therefore, she thought, while she'd been unconscious, someone had been mad enough to kick her in the face, but someone else had stopped him from going any farther than that. No fingers or toes broken, no ribs cracked and she didn't feel as though she'd been raped. So, she'd been handled more or less gently. That argued against torture, at least in the short term. They wanted her not just alive but functional. They'd also given her some basic amenities - bed, clothing, bucket. Therefore, they either wanted her in decent condition or they just wanted things to be able to take away as punishment or return as reward. The psychology of that wasn't lost on her.
As the hours passed in silence, Lonnigan grew in respect for her captors. The long delay meant she'd be stiff, hungry and thirsty when they eventually showed up, no doubt with food and water in hand. They were strengthening their position over her without doing anything at all. This was subtlety in action, and the fact that they were using such methods was a sign of respect to her. That flattery itself was, of course, another tactical move designed to reduce her resistance.
It was a small silver lining to her situation, but she came to the firm conclusion that, whoever had her, they were not working for the Mouse. She had no doubt that she'd have been raped, killed and fed to the dogs by now if it had been Meng-Shiu who had nabbed her at the storage locker. The only person left with any subtlety in her own Organization was Simon.
And, of course, Lonnigan herself. That chain of thought brought a smile to her lips just as she heard a metal door slide open somewhere off in the garage. A car with a big engine drove closer as the door closed again. The echoes made it hard to tell how far away the car was when it stopped. Four car doors opened, hard-soled shoes scraped on the concrete. She heard them approach, then one of the partitions was dragged out of the way. Four men, three of whom she recognized from her capture - the one with the smile whom she'd shot, the one with the gun and the one with the Talent. The fourth man she knew from photographs and reputation.
It suddenly occurred to Lonnigan that she had nothing to fear from these men. She wanted to help these men. These men were her friends. She had nothing to fear from these men.
"Marcus, that's enough."
Her vision clouded briefly as the pressure of the mind control lifted. She was left feeling nauseated, as though someone had been licking the insides of her ears. Lonnigan sneered at the emaciated Talent and said, "That was pathetic. Somebody get that man a sandwich." If the bony bastard had been within arm's reach...
"Excellent idea, Ms. Lonnigan. Such mental exertions do carry a high metabolic cost, as you are well aware." The speaker motioned to one of the other two men, the one she'd shot during her capture. The bandages across his face were large, but as he didn't seem to be in any lingering discomfort from having taken two rounds to the forehead, he was clearly Augmented with first-rate nanotech. Probably reactive-plasma bone grafts - expensive stuff. She should have gone for the neck.
The man set down the box he was carrying and opened the lid. Lonnigan's belly lurched as the three underlings took out hot dogs, unwrapped them and began to eat in front of her. The nearness of the food made her mouth water; when they took out paper cups of coffee, the combination of smells made her stomach growl loud enough to make its own echo. She ignored it and regarded the fourth man, the boss, as coolly as her chain and her hunger would allow.
With his arms crossed, he said, "Do you know who I am?"
She considered the smart-ass approach, but decided against it. "Yes. You're Sung Bo Kim."
"Very good, Ms. Lonnigan. Do you know why I went to the trouble of, ah, acquiring you?"
"I'm assuming you're about to tell me."
Kim smiled. Lonnigan shivered like a rookie; after being around Meng-Shiu for too long, she had forgotten how much threat real bosses could pack into so simple an expression.
"You may not be aware of it, but Aderesto Vincelli was a friend of mine. A dear friend." His smile went away, leaving an venomous blankness behind. "The 'message' you sent was received quite clearly. Quite clearly indeed. I intend to get revenge for what was done to the Acrobat, Ms. Lonnigan. And you will be the tool I use for it."