Thursday felt like a fucking hypocrite. How often had he spoken for slave rights? How much blood had he spilt fighting for them? He went to war- literally- for them. And here he was, buying one for his wife.
He hated this store. He hated being here. It took everything he had not to sneer at the rich women and men who walked through this place, slaves in tow, acting as if owning a human being was a god given right.
He had to remind himself it wasn't for him, it was for Win. Win, who slipped and fell and hurt her hip so badly, it could be months before she was able to walk again without pain. With Sam back in school and Joan taking on extra shifts at the bank, there was no one who could stay home to watch their mother.
Thursday waited uncomfortably at the front desk, hands pressed flat against the shiny wood. Happy-go lucky posters of pretty people smiled down at him, telling him the benefits of slavery and how it improves the economy. Thursday saw less propaganda for the war.
Eventually a young woman came to the desk. Thursday straightened his back, swallowing back his disgust as he suddenly noticed the collar around her neck. "Hello, sir," the slave woman greeted politely. "How may I help you?"
I'm so sorry, was what he wanted to say. "I am here to purchase... a slave."
"Do you have any preferences?"
"Yes? Blonde, blue-eyed, short, young, old? Are you looking for a pleasure slave, or a house slave?"
"House slave... I don't care for looks."
How come none of these posters on the walls behind her showed the majority of slaves? The ones with the scars, the owning tattoos, the age lines and leathery skin? The slaves who worked their fingers off, only to be tossed aside when their bodies couldn't handle the stress of their lives any longer?
"All right," the woman said, going through her notes and writing down Thursday's requests. "What's your price range?"
"Two hundred pounds."
The woman looked up at Thursday. "Sir, our average price is five hundred."
"Unfortunately, that's all I can afford." Even with the extra money Joan was willing to sacrifice. "I need someone to look after my wife. She hurt her herself and I can't be home to help her."
The woman tapped her pen against her lips thoughtfully. "I understand the situation is delicate, but we don't have slaves with prices that low..."
Thursday felt both relieved and disappointed. Relieved that he didn't have to throw away his morals and justices he fought for since his early twenties. Disappointed because Win needed this.
"You know what?" The woman suddenly said in revelation. She reached over and grabbed a different file. "I think there's one slave I can sell to you for a hundred pounds... ah, yes, this one here."
She pushed the file over for Thursday to look at. He practically scoffed at the name. Endeavour Morse? "Why is he so cheap?"
"He's about to be recycled."
Recycled. Another word for killed. Such a fate were usually reserved for those who committed horrific crimes, but slaves were often recycled for other, stupid misdemeanors. Like pleasure slaves saying no. "Why? What did he do?"
"Runaway," the woman said. "Like dozens of times. It's gotten to a point where the company doesn't want to deal with him anymore."
God fucking damn it. If Thursday bought the slave and he ran away, would Thursday care? Would he be angry he just lost a hundred pounds and Winny's caretaker? Or would he be proud that this poor slave fought tooth and nail for his freedom?
"It's a risk, I know," said the woman. "But the slave is fully aware that this could be his last chance. If he is caught fleeing again, he is to be recycled, no exceptions. Personally, sir," the woman dropped her voice low. "If I were him, I wouldn't risk running away again."
Thursday closed his eyes. He couldn't believe he was doing this. If his mother could only see him now. "I'll take him."
Morse was quiet.
Exactly what did Thursday expect? For a repeated runaway slave to be chatty? At least they didn't deliver the boy to him covered in bruises. Runaway slaves often felt the hand of their masters, and it was within their rights to punish their slaves. Thursday was afraid the boy would be broken somehow.
He read the file. That was all the boy was guilty of: running away. He never hurt his masters, never killed them, never took revenge. It was amazing the boy went on this long without a misdemeanor on his name.
Morse was skinny, as young people often were. He had giant blue eyes which suited his thin face. He was a handsome boy, and it had Thursday morbidly wonder how many of Morse's masters were women.
"So I hear you're a runaway."
Thursday inwardly winced. He didn't mean to make the statement sound like a veiled threat.
Morse looked at him, but gave no indication he was offended or afraid.
"My wife injured her hip," Thursday said, trying to sound less harsh this time. "She can walk, but not far, and not easily. I need someone to look after her in the day when I am at work."
"May I ask what is it you do?"
Polite, he was. "I'm a police officer."
Morse said nothing to that.
"Look," Thursday began. "I'm going to lay it all down for you. My wife needs help. I don't know for how long. It could be two months, it could be a year, I don't know. So I'm going to make you a deal, Morse. Do your duties. And when my wife recovers, I'll set you free."
Morse's eyes went impossibly wide. Only a master had the power to release a slave from servitude. Too many cruel owners tried using such a ploy to keep said slave obedient, making them think they were only a few steps away from freedom.
Thursday meant it. Once Win was well enough, Morse was free to go.
Something in Thursday's voice must've sounded genuine, because Morse nodded and said, "Yes. In exchange for freedom, I will take care of your wife."
Win was asleep when Thursday brought Morse into the house. Hearing the silence and knowing Win was napping, he placed a finger against his lips. "C'mon," he whispered. "I'll show you where you'll be staying."
He took Morse upstairs to the guest room. When he opened the door, saw the made bed, he cursed.
"What?" Morse asked, staring into the room. "What's wrong?"
"Winny made the bed," Thursday said, scowling. "She knows she's not suppose to be moving."
She not only made the bed, but she cleaned the floors, moved out the boxes, and dusted. "Morse," Thursday said. "Will you go downstairs and familiarize yourself with the kitchen? If you can, make a cup of tea. I need to go talk to my wife."
Morse went away silently, his footsteps barely heard on the floor. Very light stepper, he was. No wonder he ran away so many times, nobody heard him.
Thursday went to the master bedroom, and found Win sleeping quietly on their bed. She looked so peaceful, Thursday didn't want to disturb her. Quietly, Thursday sat down on the bed. The weight change of the mattress was enough to stir Win out of her doze. "Mmmhm... Fred?"
"Hey, Winny," Fred said lovingly, swooping down to gently kiss her on the lips. "How do you feel?"
"Heavy," she said. "Like when I was pregnant with Sam? I remember getting so tired..."
"That's because you were cleaning today. You know you're suppose to stay off your feet."
"Yes, but I couldn't stand the thought of leaving such a dirty guest room. Which, by the way," Win said, pushing herself up. "Did you bring a slave home?"
"Yes. He's downstairs, making tea hopefully."
Win has never expressed strong feelings for the rights of slaves. She disliked reading about slave abuse in the papers, but didn't share the same hatred of slavery as Thursday did. At least, nothing else, she would never lay a hand on the boy. Never treat him like he was a lamp, ready to be used then tossed if it became broken. "What's his name?"
"Morse. Endeavour is his first name."
Win snorted. Thursday grinned, the wrinkles around his eyes crinkling. That's why he married her. "Oh my, poor boy."