What I'll be posting is a first draft. Except for spelling and grammar, the finished product may be very different.
“It’s damn well about time. I’ll be right there,” the senator said as he put his phone back in his pocket and glanced at me briefly. “You will come with me.”
The prison van had been due at sunrise, almost two hours ago, and the senator’s anger had risen along with the sun. Even a free man, if they had any sense at all, would have known better than to question him now. I nodded, keeping my surprise off my face, and my mouth shut on my own questions.
He didn’t wait for me to open the door for him, striding out into what was already a furnace of a day and would only become more deadly with each passing hour. My domain was the household, so I rarely had any reason to be outdoors. The heat and humidity struck me like a suffocating blanket that made me flinch back even as I tried to take a deep breath. But if the senator said I was to go with him, I had no choice but to obey.
The cart was waiting at the door and I was grateful to see that the awning had been put up. I would have at least a minute or two out of the sun. The senator pushed me ahead of him, into the back seat, and I scrambled over as far as I could, leaving him most of the space. The driver didn’t need any instructions, thank goodness. Having to tell him where to go would have raised the senator’s ire another few notches. No one on the estate would ever take that chance if they had any options at all. Anticipate. Always anticipate his wishes. I had learned that very quickly myself.
I had little time to wonder why the senator wanted me with him, and even less time to worry about what it might mean for me. The transport van was right ahead of us now, parked outside the slave barracks, its back doors still closed.
The senator jumped out before the cart had quite come to a stop and headed for the man standing beside the van, looking worried. The man dipped his head, a poor excuse for a bow, and kept his eyes aimed at the ground.
“Murphy! What the hell is going on? Why was the van late? Have the slaves been unloaded?”
“Sir,” the man said, still not looking at the senator. “I don’t know why it was late. One of the guards…” and he pointed to the cab, its windows closed, “said they wouldn’t let us unload until you arrived.”
“Well, I’m here now, damn it.”
The senator banged on the passenger-side window. “Open up, damn you. I want those men out. Now! Get your asses moving or I’ll have one more complaint to file with the warden.”
As the door opened, he backed away. I was standing just a few steps behind him, and the cool air enveloped us both for a blessed second or two before dispersing into the heat.
I followed them both around to the back of the van, wishing I was back in my proper place. What was I doing out here, anyway? But I had no more time to wonder, or to think about the sun hammering down on my head, as the guard fumbled with a key and opened the back doors. They swung wide and I backed away as fast as I could, practically choking on the wave of overheated air that poured out. But it wasn’t the heat that was so awful, as bad as it was; it was the smell. Not smell—stench! A stew of sweat and urine that had to have been cooking for hours to be that toxic.