The slender red-head he had been following escaped into the darkness behind the bar.
The barman was big. And strong. Much stronger than Haymitch had estimated when he tried to shoulder past him to the back room.
“I just want to talk with Effie, pal. Don’t make this a problem”. Haymitch was frustrated beyond belief. He had been trawling the less salubrious establishments that the Capitol had to offer for hours just on the chance of a whispered rumour that the former escort had been sighted in the area. He hadn’t even stopped for a drink.
The bouncer took another step forward menacingly, cracking his knuckles. “Think your funny do you? Why don’t you lot just back off and leave her alone.”
He could see her, face partially hidden by the door-jamb, peering cautiously at him in the dim light. She gave a wan smile and patted the big guy on the arm. His brow furrowed grumpily, but he backed off.
"I’m right here if you need me." He told her, glowering toward Haymitch. Effie nodded and shooed him away. Reaching behind the bar she retrieved a bottle of liquor and poured them both a healthy measure. It tasted good and warm and right in the back of his throat. Haymitch relaxed for the first time in days.
"So how’ve you been?"
Effie shrugged, the gesture shifting the collar of her shirt to one side. It was only then that Haymitch noticed the thin stripe of scarlet ribbon wound about her neck. A cruel, thick scar curled out from under it, prominent against her pale skin.
A red band around the neck; the sign of an Avox.
Haymitch slammed his glass down, furious. “Who did this to you? Who took your voice?”
Effie merely shook her head and shrugged again. She scribbled a note on a napkin.
I don’t know.
She paused, then added another phrase, lips quirking into an approximation of a smile.
You always hated me talking anyway.
She poured another shot and shifted her stool closer to Haymitch. The silence curled thickly around them both.