After the talk with The Artist ended, the large man herded Officer Lyle up a series of stairs. Black sheets draped the floor to ceiling windows, but Braxton thought he could see the flashing red and blue lights of his cruiser. An unconscious pat for his sidearm provided an empty holster. I should have been able to feel the difference in weight. The extra magazines remained intact, but would most likely prove useless in a fight.
“So, how long have you worked for Cass Lawrence?” Braxton asked.
A solid swat to the back of Braxton’s head almost made him slip. The pulsing pain of a metal ring on skin formed a goose egg.
“Don’t you dare use The Artist’s name,” the man said. “If you must refer to him, you address him as The Artist, nothing else.”
Braxton rubbed the back of his head and confirmed the inflamed lump’s location right where his fade started. He asked with the proper title because another blow would leave him unconscious.
“I met The Artist while under my old Employer,” the man said.
The way the man said it sounded like a title. One that circulated around the Utah areas years ago. Don’t worry about that right now. But if the underground syndicate employed Cass Lawrence, that meant he’d been out of prison. But I checked on his status every week. The man went on, not noticing Braxton’s distracted gaze.
“It’s been ten years since I left The Employer,” the man said. “I get to see art daily. But I envy everyone else enjoying the exhibit tonight.”
Braxton stepped onto the third landing to find fabric walls erected in a maze like fashion. Red light glowed from many of the areas that looked like openings. Two parallel lines of stanchions lit with red LED strips beckoned Braxton forward. I don’t even remember how I learned that word. The movie theater line barriers always mystified him as a child, but he’d only stumbled upon the proper name in the last year. Braxton walked into the man that he hadn’t realized stepped in front of him. It felt like walking into a bull elk you didn’t see in the dark woods.
“The Artist asks that you experience the Exhibit from another perspective,” the man said.
The man guided him through the opposite side of the wall. A muffled cry came from one section they passed, but as Braxton turned to investigate, a firm hand grabbed the back of his neck. The finger and thumb rested on both carotid arteries. A slight squeeze and I’ll be unconscious before I know it. Braxton allowed the man to walk him into another opening, where a stage with various poles stood erect.
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