“Hamburg wouldn’t have let the police believe it happened inside because they would’ve retrieved the camera footage and saw what really happened.”

I’m not following him. At all.

“Wouldn’t they want the police to know what really happened?”

Fredrik leans back against the chair casually and props one bare foot on a knee at the ankle, resting both arms across the length of the chair arms.

Victor shakes his head. “Do I really need to explain this to you, Sarai?”

His faintly aggravated attitude catches me off guard. I look over at him and it only takes a few seconds to understand everything all on my own, without him having to point it out.

“Oh, I get it,” I say, looking back and forth between them, “Hamburg doesn’t want the police involved because he’ll risk exposing himself. What, so he just had the body moved outside? Staged the area to make it look like a random robbery? Not too much different from what he did that night we were at his mansion, I suppose.” I don’t say any more with Fredrik here. I don’t know how close Victor is to him, or if Fredrik even knows what happened the night Victor killed Hamburg’s wife.

Victor’s eyes smile lightly at me, his way of letting me know how pleased he is that I figured everything out. Still feigning resentment, I don’t give him the acknowledgment he’s probably expecting.

The housekeeper comes outside carrying a fancy wooden ice bucket with three bottles of beer jutting from the top. Fredrik takes one and then she turns to us. Victor reaches for one, but I decline, barely making eye contact with her, too engrossed in the events of the night still running through my mind.

The housekeeper leaves us shortly afterwards without muttering a word.

“What did you mean by Javier’s brothers?”

Victor twists the cap off his beer and sets it on the table.

“Two of them, Luis and Diego, took over Javier’s operations just days after you killed him.” Briefly, Javier’s face flashes through my mind, the shocked, yet proud look on his face, the wideness of his eyes, how his body fell against the floor seconds after I put a bullet in his chest.

I shake it off.

I remember Luis and Diego. Diego was the one who tried to rape me when I lived at the compound in Mexico, the one who Javier castrated as punishment.

“Are they looking for me?”

Victor takes a sip from his beer and then sets the bottle down gently on the table. “Not that I know of,” he says. “I’ve been monitoring the compound for months. Javier’s brothers are amateurs. They’ve no idea what they’re doing with power like that. I doubt they even realize that you’re a threat.”

Fredrik takes a sip of his beer and lets the bottle rest between his legs. “Don’t look so relieved,” he chimes in. “You would’ve been better off with amateurs looking for you than Hamburg and that right-hand man of his.”

A nervous knot hardens in the pit of my stomach. I glance at Victor momentarily for answers.

“Willem Stephens,” Victor says. “He does all of Hamburg’s dirty work. Hamburg by himself is as cowardly and only as dangerous as the friendly neighborhood pedophile. He can barely shoot an unmoving target and would crack in two minutes to sell someone out to save himself.” He cocks a brow. “Stephens, on the other hand, has an extensive military background, is a former mercenary and was employed by a black market Order back in ’86.”

“A what?”

“An Order like ours,” Victor explains, “only they take on private contracts. They do things that other operatives won’t do, sell their services to just about anyone.”

“Oh…so basically he kills innocent people for money.” I recall what Victor told me months ago about the nature of private contracts, about how hits are carried out on people for petty things like cheating spouses and vengeance. Victor’s Order only deals in crime and serious threats to a large number of people or ideas that could have a negative impact on society or life as a whole.

I swallow hard. “Well, he definitely saw me.” I reach up with both hands and push my hair away from my face, running my palms over the top of my head. “He was the one who walked me upstairs to Hamburg’s room.” I look at Victor. “I’m so sorry, Victor. I…I didn’t know any of this.”

Fredrik laughs lightly. “Something tells me that even if you did know that you still would’ve gone there.”

I look away from Victor’s eyes and stare down at my lap again, my blood-stained fingers moving nervously against one another. Fredrik's right. I hate to admit it, but he’s right. I still would’ve gone to the restaurant. I still would’ve tried to kill Hamburg. But if I had known all of this, I think I would’ve had a better plan.

Suddenly, it feels like something just reached inside me and stole my breath. “Victor…my phone…,” I shoot up from the couch, my long, auburn hair falling about my shoulders, prickling my bare arms where the blood has dried within it, forming a coarse crust-like texture. “Dina’s number is in my phone. Fuck. Fuck! Victor, Stephens will go after her! I have to go back to Arizona!”

I start to head toward the back door, but Victor is behind me before I make it across the smooth, intricate rock walkway.

“Just wait,” he encourages.

I look down to see his fingers clasped around my wrist. His bewitching green-blue eyes stare back at me with intent and devotion. Devotion. I’ve never seen that in Victor’s eyes before.

Fredrik speaks up from behind, breaking me free from the trance Victor has put on me. “I’ll take care of that,” he says. I look away from Victor to see Fredrik, who is more important right now considering it’s Dina’s life on the line.

“How?” I ask.

Victor leads me back over to the couch.

Fredrik takes the cell phone from the table in front of him, searches for a number and touches the screen to call it. He puts the phone to his ear.

Victor urges me to sit back down next to him. I’m too engrossed with Fredrik right now to notice right away that Victor has made sure to sit so close that his thigh is pressed against mine. I want to bask in our moment of closeness, but I can’t. I’m worried about Dina.

Fredrik leans against the chair again, shaking his bare foot gently against his knee. The tone in his face shifts alert when someone on the other end answers.

“How fast can you get to Lake Havasu City?” Fredrik asks into the phone. He listens for a second and then nods. “I’m going to text you an address when we end this call. Get there as soon as possible. A woman lives there. Dina Gregory.” He glances up at me as if to make sure he got the name right and when I don’t correct him, he goes back to the person on the phone. “Get her out of the house and take her to Amelia in Phoenix. Yes. Yes. No, she is not to be questioned. Just make sure that no one harms her. Yes. Call me back on this number as soon as you have her.” He nods a couple more times. My heart is about to beat right out of my chest. I hope whoever he’s talking to can get to her in time.

Fredrik finally hangs up and then appears to be opening a text screen. He looks up at me, but Victor is the one who gives him Mrs. Gregory’s address. Fredrik types it in and then places the phone back on the table.

“My contact is only thirty minutes away,” Fredrik says looking at me first, but then he turns to Victor. “What do you want me to do?” He raises his back from the chair and props his elbows on his knees, letting his hands drape between them, a rather casual position, yet he still manages to appear neat and important and dangerous.

“I still need you to check on what we discussed yesterday,” Victor says and it’s even clearer to me now that Fredrik takes orders from Victor, even though Fredrik doesn’t seem the type to take orders from anyone. But clearly, they have a strong relationship. “And if you don’t mind, I need to borrow your house for the evening.”

Fredrik’s dark eyes shift to see me and a hint of a grin appears on his face. He stands up and takes his cell phone from the table, hiding it within his rather large fist.

“Say no more,” he agrees. “I’ll be out of here in twenty minutes. I have someone I’m meeting tonight anyway, so it works out.”

Victor’s demeanor changes just slightly, but I notice it right away. He’s looking across the small patio table at Fredrik with a faint, wary look. “You’re not going to do what I think you are?” Victor asks.

I listen closely and I don’t try to hide the fact. I want them to know that I’m prying because I find it frustrating that neither of them are offering me any explanations for their clandestine comments.

One side of Fredrik’s mouth lifts into a grin. He shakes his head subtly. “No, not tonight, I’m afraid. But it’s been a while. I’ll need you to help me with that soon.” His eyes pass over me briefly and it sends a chill through my back. I just can’t figure out whether it’s a good chill or a frightening one.

“You’ll have your opportunity soon,” Victor says.

Fredrik walks around the table. “Sorry to cut our visit short.”

“It’s all right,” I say. “Thank you for helping with Dina. Will you let us know when you get that call?”

Fredrik nods. “Absolutely. I will do that.”

“Thank you,” I repeat.

Victor walks with Fredrik to the glass doors and they step through to the other side. I stay seated, but I watch them from across the stone patio and I listen in as much as I can, but they make sure to keep their voices low. This, too, frustrates me. And I intend to let Victor know it.

CHAPTER EIGHT

Victor

Fredrik reaches out for the sliding glass door and pulls it shut the rest of the way.

“She has no idea about Niklas?” he asks, as I knew he would.

“No, but I’m going to have to tell her. She’ll need to be aware of her surroundings at all times. Now more than ever.”

“She can’t stay here long,” Fredrik says, glancing through the glass to see her sitting on the couch outside, watching us. “Neither can you.”

“I know,” I say. “When Niklas finds out about her involvement in the murder at Hamburg’s restaurant, my brother will know right away that I’m involved now, too. My brother is no fool. If Sarai is alive, Niklas will know that I’m helping her.”

“And since Niklas suspects that I’m working with you now,” Fredrik adds, “she’s in as much danger anywhere around me as she is with you.”

“Yes, she is.”

Fredrik shakes his head at me, a faint smile hidden behind his eyes. “I don’t understand attachment,” he says. “I respect you as always, Victor, but I’ll never understand a man’s need to love a woman.”

“I am not in love with her,” I clarify. “She is just important to me.”

“Maybe not,” he says and starts to head toward the kitchen, “but it appears that love and attachment both carry the same consequences, my friend.” I follow him into the brightly-lit kitchen and he opens a cabinet. “But I’m here for you. Whatever you need me to do to help, I will do it.” He points at me briefly from around the cabinet door now with a loaf of bread in his hand.


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