“What do you mean?” I ask, stumbling over my words, trying to buy myself some time.

Hamburg rolls his eyes. “Oh come on, Izabel.” He twirls a finger in the air. “Despite what happened that night, I was really disappointed that the two of you left before fulfilling the deal.”

“I would say that after what happened, the deal was void.”

He smiles at me and sits down in the leather chair. I see him glance at the guard, indicating a demand with just the look in his eyes.

Before I can turn around fully the guard has both of my hands pinned behind my back.

“You’re making a huge f**king mistake if you do this!” I cry, struggling in the guard’s grasp.

He forces me over to a square table and shoves me on top of it. My reflexes can’t act fast and my chin is stung by the solid marble. The metallic taste of blood springs up in my mouth.

“Let me go!” I try to kick behind me. “Let me go now!”

Hamburg laughs again.

“Turn her head to this side,” I hear him say.

Two seconds later my neck is twisted to the opposite side and held there, my left cheek pressed against the cool marble tabletop.

“I want to see the look in her eyes while you f**k her.” He looks at me again. “So, we’re going to pick up where we left off that night, all right? Does that sound good to you, Izabel?”

“Fuck you!”

“Oh no, no,” he says, still with laughter in his voice. “I won’t be f**king you. You’re not my type.” His hungry eyes skirt the guard who is pressing against me from behind.

“I’m going to kill you,” I say through spit and gritted teeth; the guard’s engulfing hand pressed against my head forbidding me to move it. “I’m going to f**king kill you both! Rape me! Go ahead! But you’ll both be dead before I walk out of here!”

“Who says you’re going to walk out of here?” Hamburg taunts.

His pants are unzipped; his right hand lingers near the zipper as though he’s trying to maintain some kind of self-control by not touching himself yet.

Then he waves two fingers at the guard, who’s gripping the back of my hair in his hand.

“Remember that,” he says to the guard. “She doesn’t walk out of here.”

I feel his right hand slide out of my hair and move between my legs. As he’s lifting my dress, I use the opportunity to reach back for the knife on my thigh and pull it free, jutting my hand at an awkward angle behind me. The guard yells out in pain, releasing his hold on me as I pull the knife away still wrenched in my fist. My hand is covered in blood. He stumbles backward, holding one hand over the lower portion of his throat, blood gushing between his fingers.

“You f**king bitch!” Hamburg roars, jumping from the chair and coming toward me like a stampeding elephant, his pants falling around his jiggling waistline.

I run straight for him, my knife raised out in front of me, and we clash in the center of the room. The force of his weight knocks me flat on my ass and my knife falls from my hand, sliding across the bloodstained floor. Hovering over me, Hamburg reaches out to grab me but I press my back against the floor and swing my foot out as hard as I can, burying the heel of my shoe in the side of his face. He yelps and stumbles back, his hand pressed over his cheekbone.

“I will cut you up in little f**king pieces! Godammit!” he shouts.

I crawl on my hands and knees toward my knife, seeing the guard splayed out in the floor surrounded by a pool of blood. He’s choking on his blood; gasping futilely for air to fill his lungs with.

I grapple the knife in my hand and roll over as Hamburg comes toward me, knocking the leather chair over onto its side on his way. I spring up from the floor fast and reach out for the table, pushing it into his path. He tries to shove it out of the way but it wobbles on its base and he trips over it instead. His body crashes against the floor belly-down, the table falling down right next to his head, narrowly missing him. I jump onto his back, straddling his thick body, my knees not even touching the floor. I grab him by the hair, pulling his head backward toward me and I press the knife to his throat, rending him immobile in seconds.

“Kill me! I don’t f**king care! You won’t make it out of here alive either way.” His voice is raspy, his breathing fast and wheezing as if he’d just tried to run a marathon. The smell of his sweat and fear rises up into my nostrils.

With the blade against his throat a vociferous pounding on the door startles me. The distraction catches me off-guard. Hamburg manages to buck underneath me like a bull, rolling onto his side and knocking me over onto mine. I drop the knife somewhere, but I don’t have time to search for it as Hamburg scrambles to his feet and charges me. I hear Stephens’ voice on the other side of the door as the door vibrates against his beating hands.

I roll out of the way right before Hamburg can get on top of me and I reach for the nearest object, a heavy rock paperweight that had been sitting on top of the table before it was knocked over, and I swing it at him. The sound of his cheekbone crunching under the blow turns my stomach. Hamburg falls backward covering his face with both hands.

The pounding on the door is getting heavier. In a split second I glance over to see the door moving violently in its frame and I know I have to get out of here. Now. My gaze scans the room for the knife, but there’s no more time.

I run straight for the surveillance room, weaving my way through debris.

Thank God there is another door inside. I swing it open and dash down the concrete staircase, hoping it’s a way out and that I don’t run into anyone on my way.



I take the concrete stairs two at a time, my bloody hands gripping the painted metal railing, until I make it to the bottom floor. A red EXIT sign lies out ahead. I dash across the dimly-lit hallway where just above me a long, fluorescent light flickers making the stairway all the more ominous. Thrusting both hands on the elongated door handle, I give it one hard push and the door opens up fully into a back alley. A man in a suit is sitting on the hood of a car smoking a cigarette when I run out into the open.

I stop cold in my tracks.

He looks at me.

I look at him.

He notices the blood on my hands and then glances at the door and then back at me.

“Go,” he urges, nodding toward the dumpster to my right.

I know I don’t have time to be confused, time to ask him why he’s letting me go, but I do it anyway.

“Why are you—?”

“Just go!”

I hear footsteps echoing through the stairwell behind the door.

I thank the man with my eyes and run around the dumpster, down the alley and away from the restaurant. A gunshot sounds seconds after I round the corner and I hope it’s just that man pretending to shoot at me.

I stay out of the open, running behind buildings in the cover of darkness, as much as my high-heeled shoes allow me. When I feel far enough away for time to stop, I hide behind another dumpster and step out of the shoes. I take off my blonde wig, chucking it inside the dumpster.

I can’t breathe. I feel sick.

Oh God, I feel sick…

I fall against the brick wall behind me, arching my back and planting my hands against my knees. I vomit violently onto the pavement, my body rigid, my esophagus burning.

Snatching my shoes from the ground, I take off running again toward the hotel, trying to hide the fact that my hands and dress are stained with blood, but I realize that’s not so easy to do. I get a few suspicious stares as I walk briskly through the front lobby, but I try to ignore them and hope no one calls the police.

Instead of further risking being seen by someone else, I take the stairs up to the eighth floor. By the time I get there and after all of the running I’ve done, I feel like my legs are going to collapse beneath me. I lean against the wall and catch my breath, both legs trembling uncontrollably. My chest hurts, as if every breath I take I’m sucking in dust and smoke and microscopic pieces of glass deep into my lungs.

The room I share with Eric is locked and I don’t have my room key. In fact…

“Oh shit….”

I throw my head back, shut my eyes and sigh miserably.

I no longer have my purse. I lost it sometime during the struggle in Hamburg’s room. My room keys. My cell phone. My gun. My knife. It’s all gone.

I pound on the door but Eric’s not inside. I didn’t expect him to be really since it’s barely eleven o’clock. But just in case I’m wrong, I try Dahlia’s door next.

“Dahl! Are you in there?” I rap on the door quickly, trying not to disturb any of the nearby rooms.

No answer.

Ready to give up, I drop my shoes on the floor and brace both hands against the wall, my head falling forward between my shoulders. But then I hear a faint clicking noise and the door to Dahlia’s room opens slowly. I look up to see her standing there.

Not stopping long enough to question the strange look on her face, I push my way inside the room just to get out of the open. Eric is sitting in the chair by the window. I notice his hair is slightly disheveled. So is Dahlia’s.

My instincts are kicking me in the back of the head, but I don’t really care about what they’re trying to tell me. I just stabbed a man in the throat and tried to kill another. I was almost raped. I just ran for my life through the back streets of Los Angeles from men with guns chasing after me. Nothing they could ever do could top that.

“Oh my God, Sarai,” Dahlia says stepping up in front of me, “is that blood?”

The strange, quiet demeanor she was displaying when I first walked in disappears in an instant when she takes stock of me in the full light of the room. Her eyes are wide and filled with concern.

Eric gets up quickly from the chair.

“You’re bleeding.” He looks me over, too. “What the hell happened?”

Dahlia’s eyes scan my clothes and my oddly pinned hair and wig cap.

“Why—ummm, why are you dressed like that?”

I look down at myself. I don’t know what to tell them, so I say nothing. I feel like a deer in headlights, but my expression remains solid and unemotional, maybe a little confused.

“You saw Matt,” Dahlia accuses and her voice begins to rise. “Fucking A, Sarai, you did, didn’t you?”

I feel her fingers curl around my upper arm.

I pull away from her and go to take my hair down from the wig cap, making my way into the bathroom. As I’m taking the bobby pins out of my hair, I notice a condom floating in the toilet.

Eric steps into the bathroom behind me. He knows I saw it.

“Sarai, I-I…I’m so sorry,” I hear him say.

“Don’t worry about it,” I answer and take the last bobby pin out, setting it on the cream-colored countertop.

I push my way past Eric and walk back into the room. Dahlia is looking right at me, shame and regret consuming her features.


I put up my hand and look back and forth between them both.

“No, I’m serious,” I say, “I’m not mad.”

“What do you mean?” Dahlia asks.

Eric looks flustered. He raises a hand to the back of his head and runs his fingers through his hair.

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