I’m just now noticing that at some point Dorian left the area. I knew it wouldn’t be long once I started the cutting. But then again, he has another job to do, which is why I brought him along to begin with.

“Look, I-I don’t know why you brought me here,” Bennings stammers with thin quivering lips. “But Ross will pay you to let me go. H-He will pay you double what he was going to pay your organization to kill Paul. Just call him. Please. His number is in my cell phone. In my coat.” She looks across the room at her clothes sitting in a pile on the floor.

“That won’t be necessary.” I cross my other leg and pull away from her, sitting as casually as if I were in a boring meeting. “But I’m interested in knowing why you believe that Ross Emerson would do something like that for you.” One side of my nose curls into a faint snarl as I look her up and down. “Look at you—you’re disgusting.”

Shocked and thoroughly insulted, Bennings lashes out, “Go f**k yourself!” and it still amazes me how defiant and stupid this woman is to be in the situation she’s in and can’t keep her mouth shut.

I smile.

“So, are you going to tell me?” I ask, tapping the bloody knife against my pant leg. “Or, am I going to have to resort to more drastic measures of interrogation?”

As with anyone, I really hope she doesn’t talk.

Bennings stares coldly at me, harsh lines forming around the edges of her pale blue eyes. Strands of her hair are scattered about her face and neck and collarbone, stuck to her skin by sweat even though it’s cold in this warehouse.

I raise both brows asking her in gesture, So what’s it going to be?

“Ross would do anything for me,” she begins. “And I’d do anything for him. Anything!”

“Why?”

“Because we were meant to be together. Because I love him. Because he loves me. What more does there need to be?”

I smile again and look upon her thoughtfully.

“A valid reason to intentionally ruin or take away entirely, the life of an innocent person,” I say, but find myself thinking only of Seraphina in this moment of personal divergence. “If you can give me one good reason, one valid and justifiable reason for what you and Ross Emerson did to Paul Fortright and the two defenseless children the both of you used to get what you wanted, then I will let you and Emerson go.”

Bennings’ trembling mouth snaps shut, her thin, cracked lips stretching into a hard line.

Then it dawns on her and her widening eyes dart to and from me and all around the cold, dimly-lit, spacious area.

“What do you mean, let us go?” she asks carefully at first, but then her voice begins to rise. “Where is he? Tell me! Where is Ross?” She struggles against her restraints.

“He’s in the other room,” I tell her, glancing over my shoulder at the metal door that once led into an employee break room.

“You’re lying,” she accuses, but the worried look on her face says the opposite. “You’re just saying that to—”

“To what?” I taunt her. “You have no more information that I need, Miz’ Bennings, other than the last fairly simple question that I asked you.” I smile faintly and shake my head. “But you and I both know that it’s not a question you’ll ever have an acceptable answer to. Because there’s not one.”

“The answer I gave you is enough!” she roars, her disheveled hair falling more about her face and sticking to her lips. “Yes! We love each other, you f**king bastard! And yes! We’d do anything for each other, even if it means ruining another person’s life! Because that’s what love is! It’s the meaning of unconditional! You would never know!” She spits on the floor and looks at me with such hate and violent retribution in her wet and narrowed eyes.

I grit my teeth privately at her last comment.

Without taking my eyes off her, I call out to Dorian, “Bring Emerson in here!”

The sound of the metal door to the break room opening echoes through the large, empty space and Emerson steps through first with Dorian behind him with a gun pointed at Emerson’s back.

“Ross! Ross!” Bennings cries out, nearly knocking herself over within the chair.

Leaning forward and tapping the blade of my knife against the top of her bare leg I say, “Volume, Miz’ Bennings. Remember what I said about the volume of your voice and the attachment of your tongue.”

She swallows hard and lowers her voice.

“Ross, I-I’m so sorry”—more tears stream from the corners of her eyes—“I’m so sorry!”

Dorian forces Emerson to walk the rest of the way with only the gun as incentive, while Dorian makes sure to stop next to me and not put himself in view of the hidden camera I have on them.

Ross is a short man with curly dark hair and broad shoulders and a look of terror and cowardice. Early thirties. Work boot construction-type who smells of cigarettes and cheap aftershave that he finds easier to pull off than showering. He wants to look at her, but he’s scared. He keeps his dark eyes on the floor, his hands tied behind his back.

“Ross—”

“Please, Kelly, just be quiet,” Emerson says in a low, defeated voice. “Don’t make this any worse.”

“Are you…pissed at me?” Bennings asks with intense worry.

Emerson shakes his head. “No, baby, no. I love you, you know that.”

I roll my eyes and glance at Dorian. “Help Mr. Emerson have a seat, why don’t you?”

Dorian grins. “I’d be delighted,” he says properly and with a broad smile.

Two shots ring out. Emerson’s cries fill the space as his kneecaps are taken out by the bullets. He falls to the cold floor onto his side, the side of his face hitting the concrete.

“What the f**k is wrong with you?!” Bennings screams. “He didn’t do anything!”

I shoot up from my chair and wrench Benning’s lower jaw in my hand, forcing her mouth open—always keeping my back to the camera. She tries to cry out but begins to choke on the saliva and tears draining into the back of her throat as I force her neck back. I grab her fleshy tongue amid her screams and her struggles and her gnashing teeth, forcing two fingers into the warm, flabby muscle underneath it, and my thumb on the top to maintain my grip; her eyes pried open by terror, all the bones and muscles in her body solidifying at once.

I put the blade to center of her tongue.


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