I pulled my lips away from the phone and turned to Victor. “I don’t know—something’s wrong,” I said quietly and I couldn’t hide the worry and grief in my voice even if I’d tried. “I need to go see him.”
I turned back to the call while Victor was switching on the bedside light.
“Fredrik,” I said with urgency, “I need you to tell me what’s going on. I’ll come there right away, but I just need to know what to prepare for. If anything.”
I felt the bed move as Victor stood up and walked butt naked across the room to our bathroom.
Still not hearing Fredrik’s voice on the other end, I sat all the way up in bed and draped my bare legs over the side of the mattress.
“I killed her,” Fredrik said and my heart stopped—out of shock, but mostly it stopped for Fredrik.
I gasped and shot up from the bed.
Victor was looking right at me as he came back out of the bathroom.
“Tell him you’ll be there soon,” he said with a nod.
I thanked Victor with my eyes and said into the phone, “Fredrik, I’ll be there soon. Just stay where you are. Don’t leave, OK? Promise me you won’t leave.”
My eyes never left Victor’s then and I knew they must’ve been full of worry and fear. Fear only for Fredrik.
The phone went dead.
For a long time I just held it against my ear, thinking maybe he was just being really quiet. Finally, Victor took it from my hand and it pulled me out of my worried and paranoid thoughts—would Fredrik hurt himself? Was he capable of doing something stupid? The thoughts put my nerves on edge.
“Get dressed and go see him,” Victor said softly. “I’ll make a call and have a car meet you there.”
I nodded short and rapidly and then scrambled to get my clothes on. And before I left, Victor came up to me, kissed me on the lips and said, “And when you get back, I think it’s time you tell me about Seraphina Bragado being in his basement.”
He knew all along.
I stood there frozen before him, worried about what he was thinking of me, of Fredrik—of me and Fredrik. I was scared. I don’t know why, but I was scared. Maybe because I knew that I could never, no matter how hard I tried, ever hide anything from him.
Victor kissed me on the mouth and brushed my hair away from my face with the side of his hand.
“I understand,” he said. “Now go help him and keep me updated.”
And then I left.
Entering Fredrik’s front door quietly, I peer in around the frame before I step all the way inside. The house is nearly pitch dark, only the faint blue hue of the moonlight beaming through few windows. It’s quiet. So quiet. Not even the dripping of a faucet or the humming of the refrigerator or the central heat can be heard. But I hear my heartbeat, pumping blood anxiously through my heart.
Two of Victor’s men start to enter the house behind me.
“Wait,” I say, putting up my hand. “Stay on the porch until I tell you to come in.”
Stopped in the doorway, they nod and step back outside, leaving the door open partway.
Walking carefully through the house, I stop in my tracks at the entrance to the den. Fredrik sits on the center cushion of the sofa with his long legs bent and his arms resting against his thighs, his hands dangling between them. His back is hunched over, his shoulders stiff.
He’s staring at the floor in front of him. I glance over to see that the coffee table has been shoved off to the side, sitting crookedly against a leather chair.
“Fredrik, I’m here,” I call out to him softly.
I approach him with caution—my heart tells me that he needs me, but also that’s he’s not in his right mind and he could be dangerous.
He won’t speak.
I step a little closer. My heart is breaking for him.
“I need her out of the house,” Fredrik says without looking up at me or moving a muscle in his body other than his mouth. “And the body in the basement.”
I want to ask who ‘the body in the basement’ belongs to, but it’s not the right time for that.
I nod even though he doesn’t see me and call out to the cleaners—men designated to clean up our crime scenes—on the porch, “Come inside! And be quick about it!” Once they’re standing at the den entrance I add, “There are two bodies. One in the basement, the other I don’t know, but just find them and get them out of here.”
They nod and walk away quickly to follow my orders.
I turn back to Fredrik, stepping up closer, the light sound of my boots tapping against the hardwood floor.
Finally, I step all the way up to the sofa, remove my long white coat and set it on the cushion next to me as I sit down. Fredrik still won’t look at me. He won’t speak. He won’t move. And I don’t know what to say because there really is nothing that I can say to make him better.
We sit quietly for several long minutes while the cleaners move through other parts of the house. Thankfully, they know better than to carry the bodies back through the den and I hear them going outside from a back door, instead.
I look over Fredrik, as still as a statue, and I feel like I’ve lost my best friend, that his mind is gone because his heart is gone, and it’s devastating to me.
Will he ever be the same?
Something tells me the answer is no.
A sort of darkness has consumed him entirely, inside and out, something so awful and merciless and unforgiving that it impregnates me with sorrow, and I feel hopeless all over again like I felt when I was imprisoned by Javier back in Mexico. I want to reach out and lay my hand upon his arm, but I’m too afraid.
Why the f**k am I afraid?
I do it anyway, relieved that Fredrik doesn’t move his arm or refuse me. But he’s not necessarily accepting of it, either, I know.
I wonder if he even notices.
“I would’ve done it for you,” I say carefully. “It didn’t have to be you, Fredrik.”
He says nothing.
“You did what had to be done,” I say even more carefully this time because I feel I’m walking a dangerous line with these kinds of words. “You gave that girl peace. I believe that.” I pause and then add, “If it had been me, it’s what I would’ve wanted.”
“I know I gave her peace,” he finally says, but still doesn’t move.
Trying to comfort him, I brush my hand across his arm once before resting it in the bend, my fingers tucked into the inner part opposite side of his elbow.