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Chapter Nine

“Well, that was fun," Dex said, hands stuffed back into his pockets as we boarded the elevator again.  He had been silent the whole way out of the chrome-walled hallway.  Even now, he was trying to act casual, but I could tell that our conversation with Victor had upset him almost as much as it had me.
“Was he serious?" I asked as the elevator doors closed behind us.
Dex and Lewis exchanged concerned glances, and then turned back to me.
“Yeah, he was," Dex said, and Lewis cooed softly in agreement.  “Since we lost our last Silverblood, there's no denying that we have to get a new one."
“But why me?" I demanded, my cheek still tingling where the silver had touched me.
Dex shrugged, and leaned against the elevator wall.  “Because you're here.  If Lacken and Victor get to keep you, that means we won't have to catch the original wolf."
I turned to him as best I could with my head still bound, unbelieving.
“You're kidding," I said quietly.  “You want to lock me in a cage and pump acid into me for the rest of my life because you're too lazy to go out and do your job?"
Dex grimaced, and looked up at the ceiling.
“Yep, that just about covers it," he said.  “Though I would like to point out that Victor's the one who wants to keep you- not me."
This didn't put me at ease at all, and I continued to glare at him.
The elevator finally dinged, and the doors slid open to reveal a hallway that was totally different from the one I had just  been on.  The floor was carpeted, and the walls were painted a comforting vanilla white.  Lamps lit the way every few feet, and the doors were made of polished wood.  It looked more like a hotel than a laboratory.
“This is the guest floor," Dex explained as he led the way out of the elevator.  “It's where we put visitors while they're staying here."
He turned to me as Lewis set my cart down on the floor again.
“You feeling all right?" he asked, taking a step toward me.
My cheek still stung a little, and I was seriously considering tearing Dexter to pieces, but I nodded.  Though he didn't seem like he believed me, he motioned at Lewis, and the big blue thing unstrapped me.  I stepped off of the dolly, rubbing my arms to get the feeling back into them.
“This will be your room," Dex said, rapping his knuckles on the closest door.  “Room 3729."
Despite my situation, I looked at him in confusion.
“I'm on floor thirty seven?" I asked.  “Just how many floors does this place have?"
Dex shook his head and smiled, his usual nonchalant attitude returning.  “Nope, that would mean that there were twenty seven rooms on this floor.  There are only eleven."
My eyes opened wider.  “You mean there are three hundred seventy two floors in this place?"
Again, Dex shook his head.  “Seven hundred and eighty two, actually," he corrected me.  “We're not even halfway up."
“So, we are in a skyscraper!" I exclaimed.
“Sure, Sugarsnout, whatever you say," Dex said, turning and unlocking my door.  I wanted to keep talking about it- knowing this was a skyscraper seriously narrowed down the places I could be.  I mean, just how many skyscrapers could there be in the middle of Podunk Central?  Then again, I reminded myself with a cringe, there was nothing really to say that I was still anywhere near home…
I never got the chance to ask, though, because by then Dex had unlocked my door and swung it open.
“After you, Miss," he said, formally waving me through it.  Lewis cooed, and Dex shot him a sharp look.  “Not you, dummy."
I gave him a sidelong glance, and went inside.  My first impression of this floor being like a hotel turned out to be correct.  The room was large, and had a king sized bed and a large flat screen TV.  The dresser, on which a mirror sat, and the nightstand both seemed to be cut from the same type of wood as the door.  At the far side, I was even surprised to see a small kitchen area, complete with a table, a small refrigerator, and a microwave.  All that was missing was a window to look outside from.
“You'll be staying here until the board of directors is ready to meet with you," Dex said, following me into the room uninvited.  “The TV has every channel known to man, and some that they don't know about.  If you get hungry, you can order food from the fridge or the microwave."
I shot him a weird look, and he smiled.  “Just try it.  You'll get the hang of it."
I turned and looked around the room again.  It was a very nice room, but I couldn't help but worry that it was a little too nice for me.
“What if I, you know…"  I said, suddenly finding it hard to meet his eyes.
“Turn into a wolf and tear the place apart?" Dex finished for me.  “Don't worry about it.  We'll just call housekeeping."
“I don't know if housekeeping would be able to cover it."
Behind Dex, Lewis gave a coo that sounded suspiciously like a laugh, and Dex flashed him a sly smile before turning back to me.
“This isn't your everyday hotel, Sugarsnout.  I'd be more surprised to find out that you'd managed to make a mess that they couldn't clean up."
He gave the room one last look over, and then turned to leave.  “We'll come get you when the board is ready to talk to you."
“Hey, wait!" I protested, spinning around and going after him.  Even if this was the most homely room in the whole building, I didn't want to be left alone in it.  There was still so much I didn't understand.
“Sorry, can't do that.  Got too much work to do."
I stopped at the doorway, watching Lewis pick up the dolly again and groaned in frustration.  “Can you at least tell me how long that's going to take?"
“Hard to say," he answered.  “Most of them are scattered all over the place right now.  They might need a while to clear their schedules and get here."
“Couldn't they just… I don't know," I said, gesturing wildly with my hands, “flash themselves here like you did?"
Dex shrugged again.  “Sugarsnout, if only everybody on earth was as sensible as you and me.  Just try to relax."
With that, without so much as a goodbye, he swung my door shut.  A moment later, I heard the unmistakable sound of the lock clicking into place.  I waited a few seconds until I heard Dex and Lewis leave, and the grabbed the doorknob.  Just as I'd suspected, there was no way for me to unlock it from the inside.
“Oh, come on!" I shouted at the door, and resisted the urge to punch it.  Taking a few deep breaths, I forced myself to calm down.  It wasn't like I'd really expected anything else at this point.  With an angry growl, I backed away from the door and threw myself onto the bed.  It was soft, and felt like I was going to sink down into it, but still had the right amount of firmness in just the right places.
Is that magic too, I thought, or is it just a really comfy bed?
I lay there for a few minutes, trying to ooze my anxiety into the big squishy mattress.  I turned my head and looked at the digital clock sitting on the nightstand.  1:33pm, it said, and the date was the same as it had been when Hendricks kidnapped my mom.
I shuddered and grabbed the pillow, burying my face in it.  It hadn't even been twelve hours since Mom had been kidnapped by a demon, and here I was relaxing in the cushiest bed I'd ever felt.  With my vision obscured by the pillow, the image of Hendricks' jet black eyes still bored into my imagination.
Come with me, I heard his voice creeping into my brain.  Or I will let the Octopus have his way with her.
With a moan, have of fear and have of exasperation, I sat upright and flung my pillow across the room, where it struck the wall and fell to the floor in a fluffy, formless heap.
Rubbing my temples, I got out of the bed.  Lying there, doing nothing, was only allowing dark thoughts to gather in my head, and it wasn't like I was tired anyway.  I briefly considered turning on the TV and seeing what Dex had meant by “channels unknown to man," but thought better of it when my stomach gave a loud growl, reminding me that I hadn't eaten anything since the day before.  I thought wistfully of the bacon and eggs I had left on the coffee table back home, and licked my lips.  If there's one thing my wolf doesn't like, it's being hungry.
I turned to the kitchen.  What had Dex said about ordering food?  Ask the fridge and microwave?  I shook my head, sure that the blonde wizard was yanking my chain.  He probably had cameras set up all around the room, and I bet they'd get a good laugh watching me beg the refrigerator for food.  Still, I thought as my stomach growled at me again, maybe there was something already in the refrigerator.
I crossed the room in five steps, and grabbed the handle.  A wave of cold air brushed against me when I swung the door open, followed instantly by a wave of disappointment.  The freaking thing was empty!  With yet another growl of frustration, I slammed the door shut again- this one coming out more canine than human.  I didn't bother looking in the microwave, because if the cleaners were as good as Dex said, they would never have forgotten to clean food out of the microwave.  I spun around slowly on the spot, looking for a cabinet, or a pantry, or anything that might hold a little bit of food.  Instead, my eyes alighted on a sheet of paper that had been taped to the wall- a sheet of paper that, like Mordecai, I was 99% sure hadn't been there a moment before.
Instructions to order food, it said.  For hot food, press the START button on the microwave, and tell it what you want to eat.  Wait thirty seconds for your food to be prepared.  For cold food and drinks, open the refrigerator door and tell it what you want, and then close the door.  Wait five seconds, and then open the door again.  Please enjoy your stay at Majestic!
“Okay," I said slowly, reading the note a second time.  I turned back to the microwave again, still halfway convinced that this was a joke.  On the other hand, it would not be the strangest thing I'd seen today- not by a long shot.
Reaching out, I pressed the START button.  It beeped, and the light inside the door came on.  It took me all of half a second to decide what to order.
“Bacon," I said, loud and  clear, visions of the hot, crispy meat flashing before my eyes, my stomach gurgling its approval.
Immediately, microwave started to hum.  The timer counted down thirty seconds, much too slowly for my liking.  Curious, I leaned in to look through the small window.  Inside, I saw a plate materializing out of thin air, followed by a heaping pile of bacon.  When the thirty seconds finally passed, I yanked the door open before the bell even had time to ding.  The plate was hot to the touch, as if it had really been heating up in there, but I ignored it and raced to put it on the table.  I grabbed a slice of bacon and barely paused to examine it before cramming it into my mouth.  It looked just like a normal piece of bacon- and more importantly, it tasted like one too.  I rolled my back in pleasure as the greasy, juicy meat soaked my taste buds.  Maybe it was the magic, but it was the best bacon I had ever tasted in my life.
The plate was empty within two minutes, and I didn't bother to hold back the burp that came afterwards.  The wolf inside me was practically purring in satisfaction.  Despite my carnivorous instincts, I had always made sure to eat a balanced diet just for the sake of appearances.  Now that I'd finally given in and filled myself up with meat, I found myself feeling better than I had in a very long time.
Not knowing what else to do with the plate, I put it into the sink and then turned to the refrigerator and pulled open the door.
“Dr. Pepper," I said after a moment's thought.  I closed the door, and tapped my foot impatiently as I counted out five seconds.  When I opened it again, I found a nice, big bottle of soda waiting for me.  I unscrewed the lid, letting the air hiss out nice and slow, before leaning my head back and taking a drink.  The bottle was empty when I looked down again.
It may not sound like much to you, but to my frazzled nerves, it acted like Novocain.  My belly now full, my head finally decided it had had enough.  The bed looked far more inviting now. I retrieved the pillow I'd thrown and collapsed on the mattress.  I'd worry about Mom, Hendricks, Victor, and Dr. Lacken after a quick nap, I promised myself.  Then I closed my eyes and fell asleep.
NEXT TIME: The board of directors arrives.  Will Amber be forced to spend the rest of her life at Majestic?


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