I park next to her car, my eyes skirting the trunk before I pull in all the way, remembering the sounds I heard from it before. But I don’t care about that right now.

Slamming the car door behind me, I rush up the stairs and burst into the house, the front door slamming into the wall.

“Seraphina!” I call out as I close the front door and begin my search.

But in the back of my mind I know exactly where to find her, in the basement where I keep my interrogation chair and tools.

The basement door is unlocked. And cracked.

I place my full palm against it and push. It opens without making a sound and I waste no time and descend the concrete steps. A single light glows in the distance, casting faint swaths of light against the steps as I take them one at a time. The familiar sound of a woman whimpering slowly fills my ears. But this is another kind of whimper. Not one of pleasure inflicted by sexual pain, but of fear and pain of another kind.

I step off the last step to find Seraphina standing there in all of her dark and sinister glory. A woman in a long T-shirt and a pair of panties is strapped to my interrogation chair—an old dentist chair—with a gag in her mouth. Blood is still wet in her long, disheveled hair, staining the blonde color just above her hairline, indicative of being hit over the head with something. Tears stream from her wide and frightened eyes, running streaks of mascara down her reddened cheeks. I know now that it was her who had been banging inside the trunk.

Seraphina smiles at me across the space between us, so lovingly, yet so darkly. Her knife hangs from her hand down against her thigh covered by the fabric of a skin-tight black bodysuit. The black lace-up boots with six-inch heels appear to make her tower over the frightened woman. But I don’t remember this woman. She’s not one that Seraphina and I ever ravaged together.

“Why are you doing this, Seraphina?” I walk closer, slowly. “Why did you bring her here? Who is she?” We’re not cold-blooded murderers—of innocent girls, anyway. We’ve never done something like this to any woman who wasn’t willing—unless she was a target. Seraphina has taken this to a whole new level and I don’t like it.

She clicks her tongue and puts the blade to the woman’s throat. “Not too close, love,” she warns me, shaking the index finger of her free hand side to side. “She’s the one with the information. She’s the one you want to talk to.”

This isn’t about sex, I realize now. This is about something so much more.

Confused, but thoroughly invested, I crouch down and set my gun carefully on the floor beside my scuffed dress shoes. Then I raise back up slowly into a stand, both hands level with my shoulders to let her know that I’m not going to make a move. The blonde-haired woman’s eyes grow wider, darting between me and Seraphina though with her head fixed against the chair by a leather strap, she can’t see much of my wife behind her.

Seraphina’s eyes stray briefly to the wooden chair sitting against the wall to my left. Knowing it was an indication for me to sit down, I wrap a hand around the back of the chair and drag it on its back legs into the light before doing so. I cross one leg over the other and fold my hands on top of them after I sit.

“Why do I need to talk to her?” I ask calmly.

“Because she’s the reason we’re here,” Seraphina answers and then slowly moves the blade away from the woman’s throat. “She’s the reason I am what I am. And just like I helped you kill that bastard pig who raped you when you were a boy, you’re going to help me kill her.” She points the knife at the woman. “Because you owe me, Fredrik, just like she owes me.”

I remain quiet for a long moment, trying to take in her words, seeking some kind of understanding in them and how this woman has anything to do with why Seraphina betrayed me. Why she has betrayed the Order. I want to feel out the details she’s already given me and have some kind of idea of where this is going before I speak. Because I like to have the upper-hand right at the get-go. Always. Only this time, I’m beginning to think that’s not going to be the case.

Not being the one in control makes me very anxious.

“Why does this woman owe you?” I ask. “What has she done to you?”

Seraphina’s darkly painted eyes grin before her lips do. She reaches around and touches the woman’s hair, spearing the ends of it in-between her fingers with gentle, motherly strokes. “So blonde. So pretty.” Then her hand comes up in a swift motion and falls back down across the woman’s cheek; a sharp slapping noise zips through the air. “I hate blondes. I’ve always hated them. But this one in particular, I’ve been looking for her for years, Fredrik. Because of what she did to me.”

“What did she do?”

She slaps the woman again and this time blood springs from her nose. The woman’s hands are shaking against the leather restraints securing them to the arms of the chair. The muscles in her legs harden and relax repeatedly as she struggles. Her eyes are pleading for me to help her. I can’t tell her that I’m not here to rescue her, that I’m a heartless bastard who only needs answers. But it’s the truth. I don’t want the woman to die, and if I can stop Seraphina from killing her, then I will. But sadly she’s not my priority. And if she dies, I’ll still be able to sleep tonight.

Yes, I am a monster.

“Why don’t you ask her?” Seraphina says as she steps around in front of the woman and snatches back the gag that was tied around her head, removing it from her mouth.

“PLEASE! PLEASE LET ME GO!” The woman’s cries pierce my ears, filling my senses with pain and heartbreak.

I only feel this pain when the victim is innocent, I say to myself as I’ve done many times before. It’s how I know when I’m being lied to. It’s how I know that when I’m torturing a victim in my chair whether they deserve to be set free or not. It’s an instinct, one that only my heart knows, but sometimes my mind refuses to listen.

I only feel this pain when the victim is innocent…

She thrashes violently within the chair, trying to break free, but to no avail.

“P-Please…I’m begging you…please just let me go!” Sobs roll through her chest, causing her whole body to shake.

I push myself out of the chair and grab Seraphina from behind just as she’s slamming the hilt of her knife into the woman’s face. She fights against me, swinging her fists in the air blindly at me behind her until I grab them, too, and pin them against her chest. I hear the knife clink against the concrete floor. And then black spots spring before my eyes accompanied by a white-hot pain as the back of Seraphina’s skull smashes against my face. Instinctively, I release her, trying to shake my eyesight back into focus. Finally, when I do seconds later, Seraphina already has the knife in her hand again and she’s heaving herself away from me and toward the woman.


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