The sun had been up for some time when Zara rose. Catering to the nighttime crowd meant the Gypsy camp went to bed late and was rarely stirring before noon. Which meant by the time she found the body, it could have been there for hours.
The camp was roused by a piercing scream, sending everybody scrambling for the nearest weapon. It was a scream some had never heard in their lives, a scream which some had hoped never to hear again. It spoke of loss, horror, and death.
First responders would never be able to forget the sight of Zara, eldest daughter of Ladez, cradling what at first appeared to be a mangled mannequin with no head, just a mass of hamburger. As they grew nearer and their minds were able to process what they were seeing, they realized it was the naked body of their patriarch, the tattoos covering his chest and arms unmistakable. If not for that, the shredded remains of his face and head would have left them completely at a loss.
Zara was holding the shattered body close to her, rocking back and forth and caressing where the forehead had been, her fingers growing red as she howled her anguish to the sky. One by one, her brethren sank to their knees, unable to continue standing or tear their eyes away from what had once been their leader.
When her throat had grown raw and a red mist was coming from her mouth, Zara was the first to rise. Standing, she dropped the body as though she had no more use for it. Her voice was hoarse but still carried. Every Gypsy present heard her, and no one doubted.
“I am the leader now. You will all follow me. If you challenge me, you will end up worse than my poor father. This I say!” She screamed the last, her voice hoarsening further as the wind carried specks of blood to coat the faces of those nearest.
“Now!” she shrieked. “Kill the Italian bitch and her boyfriend! Cut them into pieces and send each of them to her family! One by one, so they get a new one every day!”
Her wildly rolling eyes caught movement. A wizened old woman several yards into what had become a crowd was moving forward, breaking through the tightly packed ranks. Standing before Zara, the old woman bent to her knee, casting her eyes downward.
“Ma’am, though I do not challenge thee, I must mention; the fresh Italian girl is now our top earner. Do not cut off thy nose to spite thy face.”
Zara stared at the woman, her face working. Finally, she arrived at a decision.
“As you say then. We will take the bitch’s hand and do as I have said with her boyfriend. Then, if need be, we can continue amputating the unnecessary bits from her until her daddy sees reason.” Zara looked to the mangled corpse of her father and tears sprung to her eyes which she brushed angrily away. “They will pay for what they have done to us.”
What was once Bianca stared at the ceiling. It never changed. Sometimes she stared at the ceiling, sometimes at the ground, or to the left or right, depending on what her current client wanted. She was never required to be on top. She lay there, mechanically rising from her cot to swab her nether regions before returning to her supine position. Sometimes she was required to take someone into her mouth, but for the most part, whomever entered her enclosure was content to take his will and be gone.
When the flap which served as her door pushed aside, she barely noticed. Her lizard brain associated the sound with imminent sexual penetration and wearily began sending lubricative signals to what controlled her sexual organs. She heard murmuring of at least two voices and began to relax her nether regions, as she had been conditioned to do upon hearing more than one voice. But these voices were choked neither with rut nor excitement, as she had grown used to. These voices were businesslike as she lay on the cot, her legs spread. Unbidden, her mind regressed to her earliest gynecology appointments, and she felt a twinge of nervousness, as she had always felt before having her private areas examined. At the same time, her lizard brain insisted that she was about to play host to multiple uncaring men and responded enthusiastically by sending hormones to her brain, allowing her body to compensate for it.
She opened her eyes, hoping there was some redemptive feature for her eyes to comprehend. Movement at her feet registered first as she saw one Gypsy wrap a length of chain around both her ankles and before she could think to move, her wrists were seized by two incredibly strong hands and yanked above her head, stretching her body to the limit. She screamed in fear and pain as her muscles were stretched far beyond their normal breaking points. She felt something tear in her right shoulder where she had strained it years ago throwing the javelin in track. She screamed again, helpless in her bonds. Vaguely, she felt a strong pressure around her right wrist. She looked and saw a length of wire wrapped around her forearm just above her wrist.
Zara walked forward, a wide smile across her face as her tongue continually moistened her lips. A small black plastic object stuck out of her tightly clenched fist. As she grinned, her thumb moved and a small narrow silver sliver shot out of its end. It retracted into the black plastic handle then shot out again as Zara advanced, her thumb playing with the release switch of the box cutter, sending its five-inch blade in and out.
“Don’t worry, bitch,” Zara rasped in her new voice, halting the blade’s action as she drew near, raising the box cutter to level at Bianca’s face. The blade shot out another several inches. “You’ll live.”
Striding forward, Zara knelt on Bianca’s hand and began sawing at her wrist, below the wire. Screaming, Bianca fought to free her hand but Zara’s weight was relentless and Bianca’s hand did not move as Zara expertly cut between the radius and ulna, and the scaphoid and lunate bones of Bianca’s arm and hand, neatly severing her right hand.
Bianca screamed as blood spurted but tapered off quickly, the wire tourniquet doing its job. She bucked and thrashed but the chain remained around her legs and her arms remained securely over her head. As she flailed about, she caught glimpses of the figures holding her arms steady. She spat at them, cursing and swearing between sobs as she berated them, everything, anything, for the pain that she felt, before falling silent at the horrible new voice of Zara, grating in her face:
“IT CAN ALWAYS GET WORSE.”
Bianca shut up, screams fighting to escape from her mouth as she whimpered, tears rolling down her face as her phantom hand flexed back and forth in agony. Zara picked up the severed hand, waved it at Bianca and raised its middle finger.