“I’ve told you want you wanted to hear,” I say with venom in my voice. “What are you now, my goddamn shrink?”

She shakes her head and leans away from the table, dropping her unbound hands in her lap.

The legs of my chair screech across the floor as I get up, pushing it back behind me angrily.

“I think we’re done here,” I say, snarling down at her. I press my palms flat against the table and lean toward her with a threatening glare. “Dina better be safe when this is all over, or you can bet your ass I’ll do the things to you that Javier did to Izel later that day after he found her beating me. And then you’ll want me to kill you.”

My hands slide away from the table as I raise upright and go to walk away. Nora remains seated. When I get closer to the door, only then do I will myself to look up at the nearby hidden camera, indicating that they can unlock it now from the surveillance room. I lower my eyes quickly once I hear the lock clicking inside the steel.

“Izabel,” Nora calls out.

I stop and turn to look at her.

“If it means anything, I really am sorry for having to make you relive that.”

“It doesn’t,” I reject her apology.

Then I open the door, the smell of bleach and lemon cleaner from a recently mopped floor, rises up into my nose.

“The answer to your question,” Nora calls out before I step into the hallway, “is yes. My father cut off the tip of my finger.”

After a short pause, I leave her there without another word, and close the door behind me.

7

Victor

I go out to meet Izabel in the hallway as she makes her way back; listening to the sound of her boots tapping against the floor as she gets closer. She rounds the corner at the end of the hall, but she will not look up at me although I know she is aware of my presence. Her long auburn hair is disheveled from the fight, pushed away from her elegant shoulders and laying against her back. There’s a cut on her left leg, just above the top of her boot, and red streaks that might be leftover from Nora’s fingernails, running along her bare thighs. But no matter what Nora did to her physically, I know just by looking at her that what she did to her emotionally was far worse.

I have more than an urge to go into that room and kill that woman myself, but for Izabel’s sake, for the life of Dina Gregory, I cannot.

“Izabel,” I say when she steps up to me, but she looks into my eyes and steals the rest of my words away.

“I’m sorry, Victor.” She starts to walk past me, away from the door to the surveillance room.

I reach out carefully and hook my hand about her elbow.

“I turned off the audio,” I say. “No one heard what you confessed other than Nora.”

It takes her a moment, but finally she turns to look at me, something indecipherable at rest in her bright green eyes. It is not relief, as I would expect, but something else—regret, perhaps?

Moving around to stand in front of her, I reach my hand up and rest it against the side of her face. She closes her eyes momentarily as if she finds comfort in the gesture, her long dark lashes sweeping her face.

“You didn’t hear anything?” she asks with faint disbelief.

I shake my head. “No,” I say and fit both of my hands about her elbows. “I ordered the audio turned off the moment I saw that she had you where she wanted you. You were smart when you went in there, Izabel; you did well at turning the tables on her. It may not have produced the results you hoped for, but you did well.”

Izabel looks behind me at the wall for a moment, and then says, “I’m surprised you didn’t rush in there when she attacked me,” but I get the feeling it had been something else entirely she had wanted to say.

I smile lightly and run my hands up and down the backs of her arms.

“No, you were right before,” I say, “about taking care of yourself”—I laugh under my breath—“Dorian and Niklas, however, were ready to go in there and rescue you.”

She looks up at me, her eyebrows crumpling in her forehead.

“Niklas was going to rescue me?” She scoffs. “I’m sure that was just for show.”

“I don’t think so,” I tell her, but drop that subject because it’s not the important one.

Stepping up and pulling her closer, I press my lips to her forehead. “Whatever you told her in there,” I say, going back, “you don’t have to tell me, or anyone else until you’re ready. And if you’re never ready, I can accept that, too. The past can remain in the past.”

Her gaze strays toward the floor.

“Sometimes it can’t,” she says more to herself than to me.

Her eyes meet mine again and the moment shifts.

“But I did get something out of her,” she says. “No idea if she was telling the truth about it, but if I go by my instincts, I’d say she was.”

James Woodard appears at the end of the hall suddenly, walking toward us with a sheet of paper clasped in his hand. I hope it is promising news.

“What did she tell you?” I ask, turning back to Izabel.

The surveillance room door opens then and Niklas appears in the doorway.

“She’s talkin’ shit in there now,” he announces, jerking his head to one side to indicate Nora on the screens. “More demands. I say we just go in there and put a bullet in that pretty head of hers. Or better yet, take out her kneecaps first.”

Niklas glances at Izabel, making note of her state of being, but he refrains from being himself toward her, further proving to me that he cares for her more than he’s letting on.

I look to Woodard.

He shakes his head. “Nothin’,” he says, holding up the printout and I take it into my hand peering down into the text. “There are no records. No fingerprint match—the blood results we won’t know until tomorrow. I ran her first name and description through my databases and the only thing that came up even remotely resembling her was a woman out of Tallahassee. Twenty-six. Nora Anders. And a few others, but none of them were her. I mean we didn’t really expect her to give us her real name.”

“So we’re pretty much still on level one,” Dorian says, “while she’s on level ten and knows more about us than we know about each other. I hate to say it, but that’s a little disturbing considering our profession. How can this one woman know so much about us, when Vonnegut, who runs the largest and most sophisticated assassination and spy organization in the world, can’t even find us hiding in plain sight in Boston?”


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