She took another step backwards. “Oh my God, the animals; that woman; don’t tell me you’re all cannibals?”
“Cannibals? What are you talking about?”
“I saw the animals in the cages and…and….and that woman too. I heard you say about the sacrifice to the two moon thing or whatever.”
Tulkoy shook her head. “We are not cannibals. We don’t eat people or the animals. In fact, all the animals were given sedatives to knock them out so that we could find out who the infiltrator was to the Dalkum. Hence, the woman you saw.”
Melinda straightened. “I’m not stupid, for God’s sake. I know what a sacrifice means.”
Tulkoy nodded. “Yes, a sacrifice means death but not cannibalism.”
“But if you sacrifice the woman, then you will be committing murder.”
Tulkoy stopped pacing. “Murder only from your perspective, not ours.”
Melinda frowned. “Murder is murder regardless of whose perspective you are looking from.”
Tulkoy stared hard into Melinda’s eyes. “She betrayed the Dalkum and must be dealt with.”
“But…..” Melinda started to protest.
Tulkoy gritted her teeth and slapped her. “There’ll be no more discussion about it. She will be punished for her actions and that is it. Now, are you going to join the Dalkum or not?”
Melinda fought back the urge to strike back and rubbed her cheek. She knew this was the ultimatum she was hoping wouldn’t come for a while.
“I’m waiting,” Tulkoy pressed.
“I….I…I’m thinking. I need time Ang…Tulkoy.”
“Time for what? You’ve heard all you need to know.”
“I know, I know, but this is all new to me. I mean you, the Dalkum, sacrificing all those animals. I need some time to think it over.”
“The animals were never going to be sacrificed.”
Melinda’s head snapped up; an instantaneous look of confusion washing over her.
“The missing animals were just a ruse to flush out the turncoat. We needed you to make it plausible. It was the only way to find who would return home to betray us; and now we’ve found her.”
She moved to the door. “You have fifteen minutes to decide if you are going to join us or meet your fate.”
“So you are going to kill us after all?”
Tulkoy paused. “Only if you choose to refuse joining us.”
“For God’s sake, I’m your sister! Doesn’t that count for something?”
Tulkoy turned toward the door then glanced over her shoulder. “Yes, it does. You now have fourteen minutes to decide.”
Outside the room, Tulkoy pointed to the furthest man away from her. “Fetch the Overseer and tell him I want him now.”
The man scurried from the room and returned a few minutes later with the Overseer.
The Overseer bowed. “You wish to see me?”
“Yes,” replied Tulkoy. “You will guard this room with your life. If my sister is not in this room when I return, it will cost you your life. Now, out of my way.”
He stepped aside to let her pass.
She swept past him and commanded, “You three come with me.” The three men hastened to catch up with her.
Melinda knew that trying to escape would be impossible with guards there to watch for such an attempt. She looked around the room, but there were only a couple shelves with some towels and bed clothing on them. She wondered if she could fashion some kind of weapon or something from them.
She pulled a sheet from the stack and when she did, she heard something clunk on the carpeting. Looking down, she recognized a portable phone and snatched it up. She fumbled with the buttons to turn it on and was immediately warned the battery was low. Her hands were shaking but she managed to punch in 911.
It seemed to ring on and on forever before someone answered. Melinda didn’t waste time listening but in a hushed voice blurted. “You have to save me. I’m going to be murdered. Please help! Don’t call back or they’ll know.”
Getting no response, she looked at the phone and realized it had gone dead. “No, no…..no you can’t do this.” She shook it, hoping to get it to come back on while at the same time knowing full well it wouldn’t.
Tears brimmed her lids and she had all she could do to will them away. It was imperative she remained calm if she was to have any possibility of escaping. Before she could think of a plan, she heard the key in the door and hurriedly jammed the sheet and the phone back on the shelf.
The Overseer filled the doorway. “You’re to come with us.”
Melinda knew it was senseless to resist, so she timidly moved forward. The Overseer placed a strong hand on her arm and although he held her tightly, he wasn’t hurting her. When they stepped outside, another man took her other arm and they were escorted by two men in front and back of them.
At different intervals, beams of light flashed on them from lookouts stationed along the path to keep out intruders. It was a shorter distance to the vault than from the direction she had gone earlier that day. As she entered the dimly lit chamber, her stomach danced with jittery butterflies. Her mouth was dry and her body trembled with fear.
May 1, 2014