“Why do you want it so badly?”
Her nostrils flare briefly.
“Because of what she put her daughter and the client’s daughter through, all for a f**king man!” She looks behind me at the barista. A customer enters the store. “That bitch deserves to die, or to at least be tortured—who better to do it than you? Any so-called mother who would risk ruining her daughter’s life because of a man, deserves whatever’s coming to her.” She takes her purse from the table and tosses the short strap over her shoulder.
I search her face for what I already know is there: pain for what her own mother did to her, for taking her away at a young age to live with a Mexican drug lord who held her captive for much of her life. Any other day I might mess with her head and accuse her of just using me to do her dirty work, but I know that’s not it. Izabel doesn’t need anyone to do her dirty work. She’s more than capable. And she likes it.
“You need this, Fredrik.” She starts to walk past, but stops in front of me and looks at me with her soft green eyes. “You’re my family,” she says, “and I think you should let me help you the way Seraphina used to. And now after what you said before, about becoming the shell of the man you used to be, I’ll make it my job to help you. Because I refuse to lose any members of my family. Do you understand?” It was more a demand than a question.
I say nothing, but I know I don’t have to. I look down at the paper and then take it into my hand.
“Thank you, Izabel,” I say and she nods and walks out of the coffee shop.
I couldn’t bear to see Cassia again tonight. I need time to figure out what I’m going to do, because in the end I’m going to have to do something, and I’d rather it be of my choosing than to be blindsided by whatever fate has in store. Though as history proves, I expect to be blindsided, anyway.
But more importantly, more than my need to take a step away from Cassia, my need for bloodshed must be nurtured.
I called Greta minutes before I left for the airport and told her to stay away from Cassia until I came back:
“But what if she needs me for something? How long will you be gone?”
“No more than forty-eight hours,” I said. “Cassia will be fine on her own for that long.”
As usual, I could detect the frustration in Greta’s voice though she tried very hard to hide it.
What Izabel did for me—well, it concerns me, and I’ll address it more when this is all over because I can’t deal with all of these things at once. But I won’t be letting her risk herself for me like this. Besides, the last thing I need is for Victor to think something is going on between us. He wouldn’t think twice about putting a bullet in my head when it comes to that girl. Unfortunately, I’m all too familiar with the feeling. I felt that way about Seraphina. And now, Cassia….
Dorian stretches his legs out, one into the aisle of the plane, and slouches far down into his seat. I stare out the window beside me into the blackness of the night sky forty thousand feet in the air over Washington State.
“I don’t know what’s gotten into you lately,” he says, resting his head against the seat and crossing his hands over his stomach, “but you’re really beginning to disappoint me.”
I want to laugh at the seriousness in his voice.
“I was warned,” he goes on, “that working with you wouldn’t be easy. Like you were some kind of Sweeny Todd two-point-o.”—I laugh softly to myself, anyway—“But truthfully, I’m finding you to be more wishy-washy than anything.”
“Well, I could always offer you a seat in my chair, if you’d like,” I say with a grin.
“Yeah, thanks, but no thanks, ass**le.” He readjusts his position, pulling his foot from the aisle. “But I am going to request a reassignment after I help you with this.”
“You won’t need to,” I say, staring at the back of the seat in front of me. “Victor assured me that the Seattle job would be our last one working together.”
His head falls to the side to face me.
“Hm,” he says sharply. “Wonder why he hasn’t said anything to me about it yet.”
“I don’t know.” I glance over at him briefly. “Perhaps the Seattle job wasn’t over when you thought it was.”
He shrugs and looks at the seat in front of him.
“I guess that would explain why we’re going back,” he says.
Yes, that might make sense if Victor was the one who sent us back to Seattle, but this time it’s personal. Izabel was right—I need a job of my own to take off the edge. Like a drug addict needing a fix, I suppose. I never claimed to be any better than one.
I have a very special date with Kelly Bennings. For me and for Izabel.
Dorian glances over again.
“No offense, of course,” he says. “I’m just used to working with people more like myself. You know what I mean?”
I nod, still not looking at him.
“I know perfectly well what you mean,” I say. “And I need to be free of you as much as you need to be free of me.”
Dorian laughs under his breath.
“But I don’t see there being many more like you waiting to take my place when I’m gone,” he says with an air of comical disbelief.
“No, there won’t be. Because men like me prefer to work alone.”
“It’s a lonely f**king world out there, Gustavsson.” He closes his eyes. “I think if I were anything like you, I’d probably go crazy by myself, doing that demented shit that you do.”
In a big way, Dorian is right. My life is a lonely one. And if I had my way with things, Seraphina never would’ve betrayed me years ago. She never would’ve killed those three innocent women. She never would’ve ran and left me to live in solitude without her. But more than anything, if I had my way, she wouldn’t be sick and none of it would’ve ever happened to begin with and we’d still be together. I wouldn’t have to be alone.
But it all goes to show that we’re all probably better off on our own, anyway. Attachments make us weak and vulnerable. They f**k with our emotions. And I don’t like my emotions f**ked with.
Dorian and I are in Seattle before six the next morning. We get a rental car and find a hotel where we spend some of the day going over location information on Kelly Bennings and the client who hired us to take out Paul Fortright. According to the files there is a connection between Bennings and the client, Ross Emerson, who claimed that Fortright molested his daughter. All the information I need is right here in my jacket pocket. The rest is—and was—gut instinct and I’ve yet to be wrong about a person’s guilt—except, of course, when a victim pretends to be guilty, which was a first for me and completely threw me off. But instinct can be a deadly weapon when one knows how to utilize it. I mastered mine when I was a boy. Because if I didn’t, I never would’ve escaped my masters and I would’ve died a slave.