“No,” I say softly. “It doesn’t bother me.”

I sense her look away and silence fills the car, only the sound of the tires moving briskly over the highway filtering through the confined space.

“What’s going to happen to Amelia?” she asks.

“Fredrik will either take her to a safe-house, or he’ll kill her.”

I expected her head to snap around again upon hearing that, but she doesn’t even flinch. She nods, accepting it as casually as I would.

Already she is becoming harder. Already she is adamant about not letting her mistakes define her, betraying the only things she has left, to make certain that she doesn’t make them again.

Her humanity.

Her conscience.

~~~

It’s late afternoon when we make it home. I thought Sarai might sleep most of the way, but she didn’t sleep at all. She’s been awake for more than twenty-four hours and yet she is entirely conscious and shows no signs of lethargy. It’s the adrenaline. I’m all too familiar with its effects on the mind. But right now, I’m so exhausted by the drive that if I don’t get some sleep soon, I’ll be useless.

I check the house thoroughly before I feel it’s safe enough to relax, even though I checked the surveillance on my laptop before we arrived. I’ve no reason to believe Stephens and his men know the location of this house, but as always, I cannot let my guard down. It’s still a mystery as to how Stephens found out about Amelia McKinney and Dina Gregory. No matter what it looks like, I know Fredrik had nothing to do with it. But as much as the breach concerns me, it’s not important right now. Right now, I know I’m going to have to drop everything, my plans for training Sarai while hoping that I could drag this out for months or even years so that maybe she will change her mind. Or, until she decided to let me kill them for her. I know now that nothing will change her mind and no matter how hard I try to convince her, she’ll never agree to let me do it.

Perhaps I should kill them anyway—

“Victor?”

I snap out of my deep contemplation.

She’s standing at the sliding glass door looking out into the endless expanse of dehydrated landscape. The sun is setting on the horizon, illuminating the thick bands of ribbon-like clouds with a deep pinkish glow.

“There’s something I need to say to you,” she adds.

I walk toward her slowly, curious and impatient and even troubled by what she’s about to say.

“What is it?” I ask, stepping up closer.

She doesn’t turn around to look at me, but remains gazing through the tall, spotless glass. Her arms are crossed, her fingers resting atop her biceps.

“I’ve made a decision,” she begins in a soft, apologetic voice. My insides are beginning to harden. “I just hope you’ll understand.”

She finally looks over at me, turning only her head. Her long, soft auburn hair cascades down the center of her back, pulled away from her bare shoulders. She changed into a thin white tank top while on the drive back. I love to see her in white. It makes her appear angelic to me. An angel who carries death in her pocket.

“Tell me,” I urge her in a relaxed voice, though I am anything but relaxed right now and I’ve no idea why. “What decision?”

Her dark eyes stray from mine and I find that small, seemingly insignificant gesture a tragedy.

She moistens her lips with her tongue, leaving her plump bottom lip wedged delicately between her teeth for a brief moment.

“After Hamburg and Stephens are dead…I’m going to leave.” She turns around fully to face me. My heart has stopped beating. “I’m going to take Dina with me somewhere and I’m going to do my own thing.”

I can hardly get my thoughts together much less form a sophisticated sentence.

“…I don’t understand.”

Sarai tilts her head gently to one side and uncrosses her arms, letting them hang freely in all of their elegance. She steps right up to me. I want to take her into my arms and kiss her, but I can’t.

Why the hell can’t I?

“Victor,” she goes on, “I know now that I can’t live like this. At least not with you. And with Fredrik. The two of you are professionals and I can’t keep this delusion up, thinking that someday I’ll be able to keep up with either one of you, much less both of you.” She puts up a hand as if I had been about to argue and although I wasn’t prepared to speak, I realize she must see the growing argument in my face. “Look, this isn’t a cry for attention. I’m not saying this to make you tell me that I’m wrong. I know that as much as I wanted to stay with you, it’s just not possible. If I don’t get myself killed, I’ll end up getting you killed. And I know I could never live with that.”

“Well, I do think you’re wrong,” I manage to say, wishing that I could say more.

“No,” she says, “I’m not. And you know it.”

“But where would you go? What would you do?” My tone becomes urgent. “Sarai, you tried living a normal life already. You tried and look what happened.”

Why am I saying these things? I should be rejoicing in the fact that she has finally come to her senses.

She sighs softly. I watch her delicate shoulders rise and fall.

“Don’t do this,” she says, shaking her head. “Don’t pretend that this bothers you, or that you want me to change my mind. Just don’t. You know this is the right thing as much I do now. If only I had listened to you long ago, if I had just dropped this stupid vendetta against Hamburg, went on with my life, I’d be at home in Arizona with Dina and Dahlia and even Eric—”

“But you didn’t love him,” I point out.

Why did I say that? Of all the things I could’ve said, all the topics I could’ve explored, why did it have to be that one?

“No, I didn’t.” She looks into my eyes thoughtfully. “But he was normal. He was what you wanted for me, but at the time, I was too selfish to understand that you were right. That kind of life was right.”

I take a step back from her. “Wait,” I say, putting up my hand momentarily and then running the edge of my finger across my mouth, my head hung low, “So you’re saying you want a normal life now?”

“Not at all,” she says, shaking her head. “I could never go back to that. I’m just saying that if I hadn’t have gone through with my plan to kill Hamburg, things wouldn’t be as bad as they are now.”

I c*ck my head to one side, a confused look on my darkening face. “Then what exactly are you saying?” I ask. “What, you’re going to just start killing people on your own?” That’s almost laughable to me, but I certainly keep that contained. I know Sarai would try it. I know she would kill and maybe even get away with it a few times, but she couldn’t get away with it forever. Not without the resources that I have.

“I haven’t figured that out yet,” she answers.

Sarai places her hand on the glass door’s handle and slides it away from the frame, letting the mild, early evening air rush in from outside. She steps out onto the back patio.

I’m standing outside with her before my mind catches up to the hurried movement of my legs.

“You’re not making any sense,” I say.

The back motion-activated light floods the concrete patio when Sarai steps across the path of the sensor. She stands just on the edge of the bright beams, leaving only part of her face cast in a darkening shadow as the sun is nearly set.

“I have unfinished business in Mexico,” she says, and I go numb. “Hamburg isn’t the only person I’ve thought about killing the past eight months, Victor.” She gazes out at the flat landscape again. I can’t look at anything but her. “When you and Fredrik told me that Javier’s brothers are running the compound now, it only fueled my hatred. They need to die. All of them. Every one of the bastards involved. All of the Andres’ and the Davids’.” She looks over at me. “There are still a lot of girls there. I know there were twenty-one when I escaped in the back of your car. Nineteen now, minus Lydia and Cordelia. What kind of person would I be if I went on with my life knowing that back in Mexico there’s a compound where many girls whom I came to care about, are being held against their will? Being raped and beaten and killed?”

I start to reach out for her, but I stop at the last moment.

I don’t know why this is so hard for me…why there is so much conflict inside of me…

Sarai steps away from the sensor path just as the light blinks off, bathing us in subdued darkness. A light breeze catches her hair, making it dance against her back softly.

“This is foolish, Sarai,” I say, finally managing words I feel are suitable. “Even with my help, pulling something like that off would take a very long time. What makes you think you could do it by yourself? How would you even find the compound without me?”

“I can do it alone,” she says calmly but with unshakable resolve. “I mean, I can at least try and that’s better than doing nothing. And you don’t give me enough credit, Victor. I can put two and two together as easily as you can. I can take what I’ve learned, pieces of information that has crossed me, and make my way from there. Cordelia shouldn’t be hard to find. I know she lives in California. I know that she’s Guzmán’s daughter and that you were sent to that compound by Guzmán to find her and to kill Javier Ruiz for abducting her. Even without you, I can find out the location of the compound. I’ll start with Cordelia and Guzmán.”

My throat is dry. My stomach is a rock solid mass of knots.

She’s right, I didn’t give her enough credit. She’s much smarter than I ever knew. I knew she was intelligent, but she quite simply, just blindsided me.

She doesn’t smile or gloat, she just stands there looking at me with focus and strength and the kind of determination that scares the shit out of me. Sarai’s vengeful bloodlust runs deeper than I knew, deeper than she let on to me.

How could I have missed this?

“And then there are the rich men who Javier toted me around to, showing me off to them to make them want to buy the other girls from him,” she says, sneering. “I remember what you told me. John Gerald Lansen, you told me is the CEO of Balfour Enterprises.” She nods, affirming the revelation on my face. “Yeah, I remember a lot of things. And I spent a great deal of time at Dina’s before I left for Los Angeles to kill Hamburg, researching these men. Slowly remembering their names, their faces, putting that two and two together to find out who they are, where they live, how much they’re worth. When I wasn’t thinking about you, I was immersed in them, learning everything I could about them so that I could slowly kill them all off one by one.” She steps right up to me and gazes into my eyes. “And that’s what I intend to do.”

“You can’t do this without me,” I say.

I’m getting angry. How can she say these things, make such a decision that doesn’t involve me?


Tags: J.A. Redmerski In the Company of Killers Book Series
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