Meike cursed as her shot was nothing like that which she had planned. Silja laughed mockingly.
"You have a touch like a train crash!"
Silja leaned over the table and lined her final shot up.
Meike's attempt at a desperate snooker in order to save the match had failed so badly she had left Silja with what amounted to an open goal which Silja did not waste.
She pushed the cue hard into the white ball, and Beau's Tavern echoed with the clatter of ball against ball as Silja's final striped pool ball disappeared into the far corner pocket.
"Fa i og thakka ther kaerlega!" Silja crowed triumphantly. "You lose, come here, Meike!"
Meike smiled graciously in defeat to stand in front of Silja and accept her forfeit. She offered her nose to Silja.
"Ha! The blue dot of shame!" Silja carefully applied the blob of chalk to the end of Meike's nose. "And no rubbing it off, A deal is a deal!"
The two girls re-joined the others in the corner booth. Monika and Uwe clapped as the victorious Silja wriggled her way back onto her seat.
"Obviously I have not had enough beer," Meike announced by way of excusing her defeat.
"Bah. You were crushed!" Silja chuckled. Uwe agreed. "Jupp, played off the table from what I saw!"
Silja was enjoying her night off. She had found some new friends and Thursday nights at Beau's had become a happy routine.
Meike, Monika and Uwe were great fun, and the four of them shared the same outlook.
So, a few beers and a few hours of laughter, not to mention the few games of pool whereby 'The Blue Dot of Shame' was awarded weekly.
It served as a nice relief to Silja's almost 24/7 caring for Anneka.
And her new friends were such a contrast to the brooding self-important 'too cool to fool' bunch that surrounded that asshole, Chris Anson. Silja didn't think about him much these days.
You live and you learn. Anyway, she never saw him around at all, and she probably knew why. She knew that most people that crossed her sister's path had a habit of disappearing.
But that was all six months ago.
Now she had a little group of friends that were fun to be with and altogether more suited to her sensibilities, and of course, shared the same ironic sense of humour.
A little later, Silja stood up and announced she better be getting back home. She picked up her bag and plonked it on the table.
The muffled thud of the heavy pistol inside elicited a chuckle from the others. It was not far to Joe's house, and they knew Silja was well capable of looking after herself.
Uwe grinned "Uh-huh. The Ninja Assassin needs her beauty sleep hmm?"
Silja grinned back at Uwe, pulling on her jacket she extracted herself from the booth. "See you all at The Waffelhus, Saturday?"
Meike stood up and hugged Silja tight, making sure she left a chalky blue deposit on the side of Silja's face. "Naturlich !" She chuckled.
Silja gave a final wave from the door and headed outside. The night was still warm, She noted the Union Guards trudging their usual path up and down the street.
Silja felt happy, the smile on her face was wide as she strode down the street, she kept one hand on the top of her bag, knowing that the chromed .45 automatic was inside.
She turned right, past the Enforcer barracks. The Enforcers, part military, part police used to be the remnants of the American army in the aftermath of The Fall.
They protected the small enclave of scientists, the embryo Tech faction, in their base at Hoover dam...
that is until the attack by the CHOTA, the Children Of The Apocalypse which ransacked the dam and caused massive damage to the servers of the LifeNet cloning facilities.
It took twenty years to recover, by which time any semblance of the old government machine was well and truly gone. The Enforcer presence was tolerated in New Flagstaff, but only just.
These days, The Union controlled the city and a vast area of central area of The Province. New Flagstaff also had its own police department now.
The Enforcers were in New Flagstaff under sufferance, little more than a militia under the control of the city's merchants.
At the gate, the Enforcer guard slouched against the wall paying half attention as the tight pants and high heeled boots passed by.
Nice legs, but the shorn head and long blonde plait swinging behind made the young girl look kind of scary. He just up-nodded as Silja walked by.
It was only as Silja turned the last corner, out of sight of the sentry and with Joe's house just coming into view that Silja heard one heavy footstep behind her.
A large hand covered her mouth and a strong arm clutched her waist. He had come from nowhere.
She struggled and tried to kick back; she felt the pointed heel of her boot scrape down a shin.
The man growled in pain, but it was not enough to stop him, Silja felt herself being lifted off her feet, her legs windmilled in free air.
Usually, Silja was a tenacious scrapper but at the same time, she was only slightly built and way too light to cause this brute a problem.
She could smell the garlic on his breath as he growled into her ear. "Miss Berg wants to see you."
Miss Berg. Hanne. Her sister. This must be that damned thug, Dwight! She realised.
She felt at once relieved and terrified. Dwight was a psycho, but she knew that at least she was not going to be harmed.
Hanne would never allow it, and Dwight, despite his psychotic tendencies was fiercely loyal to Hanne.
"Get the fuck off me!" She hissed into his clammy hand. She tried to bite, but the hand had clamped her jaw shut.
Still struggling she was unceremoniously dumped into the back of the van and the doors closed behind her.
When the doors opened again Silja pressed herself against the bulkhead like a cornered cat, she hissed like one also. She had had time to think.
She reasoned that Dwight was under orders not to harm her, but she didn't trust the lumbering hulk, she was unsure if a bid for freedom was worth the risk.
Dwight climbed into the van, the dim light darkened his heavy brows, but Silja could see malevolence in his eyes.
She lashed out at him with her boot, but Dwight just grabbed the leg and Silja was dragged out of the van by her feet.
The henchman stood her up, and Silja could see she was indeed outside the office of The Ranyhyn Company.
She felt a slight relief, at least Dwight was not lying about the reason he had abducted her. But still.
She protested as Dwight bent her arm up her back. A Union Guard appeared further down the street and for a moment.
Silja felt a surge of hope but the guard, on seeing her being frogmarched into the Ranyhyn building, thought it was more important to inspect that dog turd he had noticed earlier.
Silja cursed. Hanne had half the Union flatfoots in her pocket.
Better they toe the line and accept the occasional brown envelope than accept a sudden head full of long-range lead from Hannes expertly wielded sniper rifle.
Silja decided to stop struggling, and so was propelled up the stairs and into the offices. Dwight finally let go of her arm, closing and locking the door behind them.
Silja straightened her jacket and rubbed her arm. Dwight crossed the room and tapped on the door before opening it.
He seemed to have changed almost instantly from a menacing hulk into a mild office worker.
"Miss Henningsdottir." He announced into the room. Silja heard the reply from within. "Thank you, Dwight. Show her in."
Still rubbing her arm, Silja shuffled into Hanne's office, face like thunder, her eyes glaring an ice-storm at her sister.
From behind her large desk, Hanne indicated the chair which was set in front of her. Dwight took a place standing behind Hanne, his back to the window.
Silja watched him warily as she took the seat, tight-lipped, keeping the lid on her fury.
Silence. A long, long silence. Hanne leafed through the folder on the desk in front of her.
Dwight, hands-on-hips stood unmoving, watching Silja, ready to pounce should she attempt anything like a run for it or launch herself at Hanne.
Silja's glare at Hanne remained severe and unbroken. The only sounds were pages in the folder being turned and Silja breathing deeply through her nose.
Eventually, it was Hanne who broke the silence.
"Thank you, Dwight." She lifted her head out of the folder and directed her gaze at the door.
Dwight hesitated a moment as his guard dog duty was terminated abruptly, but he obediently took himself outside and closed the door gently behind him. Silja's glare remained unbroken.
"Poppa sends his love."
"Poppa can fuck off." Silja hissed. Hanne sighed. Silja's glare remained unbroken.
"Thank you for coming."
"I had a choice?"
"You would have come otherwise?"