The Exile: Episode 65

My arm in hers, Delilah steered me into the crowded grand ballroom. Guests were scattered in all directions, some on the dance floor and others in groups throughout the room sipping their drinks while they exchanged small talk. A dozen or so wait staff furiously scrambled to keep everyone’s glass filled as light, assorted hors d’oeuvres on gleaming silver trays seemed to float through the crowd. A band played classical dance music amid the tinkling of wine glasses and laughter.

“It’s great to see you,” a man said approaching me. “I heard terrible rumors that you had died. Glad to know they aren’t true!”

Just as I smiled and began to offer a halfhearted thank you, he waved at someone across the room and hurried away.

“Who was that?” I asked Delilah.

Suddenly standing in front of me, a woman said, “You’re looking marvelous, dear. It’s so good to see you.” Clasping my hand, she added, “You’ll have to save me a dance.”

She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek before disappearing into the crowd.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Delilah reached into her purse and pulled out a small ear bud. I had seen them before and only recently had had the occasion to use one. Wiggling it into my ear, I heard Achilles’ voice,

Okay, sport. Now for the part we didn’t tell you. I leaked a few rumors that your brother isn’t dead on the chance that Isabel, your abductor, hasn’t told anyone, and what do you know, it worked.”

“What worked?” I asked.

They think you’re him,” Achilles said.

Just then a waiter walked up to me and greeted,

“Good evening, sir. We have your place right up front as you requested.”

Against my better judgment, I let myself be escorted to the head table where this Isabel was talking with a guest.

Now when you sit down, say only what I tell you to,” Achilles ordered.

The moment she spotted me, her smile seemed to slide off her face. When I took my seat next to her, she leaned over and through clenched teeth whispered in my ear,

“I don’t know how you got out, but you’re going back right now.”

She motioned to a guard who started making his way towards her.

Remembering to repeat whatever Achilles said, I responded,

“Just relax, Pushpin, or you’ll never have any fun.”

At that, the expression on her face froze, and after a moment, she said, “Pushpin?”

Suddenly her eyes grew wide and she whispered,

“David?”

“Missed me?” I repeated.

“Only because you haven’t given my men a clear shot, dear,” she answered.

“Is that any way to talk to your ex? You did promise to love, honor, and cherish me,” I repeated.

“As I recall, the rest was till death do us part,” she replied.

“You may get your chance, my love. I’ve wired the ballroom to explode. Do exactly as I say, or they’ll be finding pieces of you on the next lunar mission.”

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