Nora’s eyes narrow. “So they were going to make it look like she was a murderer, play on her vulnerable state just so Joran could replace you.”

“Fucked up, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s extreme,” she says.

“You wouldn’t believe how often things like that happen,” I say, and even now, long after I’ve left The Order, I feel like I’m committing treason against it by freely telling this woman this information. Again, I don’t give a fuck; a part of this feels strangely freeing. “Vonnegut’s operatives were, and still are, everywhere. Working as police officers, EMT’s, IRS officials, lawyers, actors, street sweepers—sometimes I think Claire is better off dead because they would’ve put her through nine kinds of hell to find out what they wanted to know, and ruined whatever life she tried to make for herself. I like to think that the last eleven months of her life with me was my way of getting back at them. Because I was good to her. And what I felt for her was real. I wasn’t just another Joran Carver sent in to lie to her. Claire would’ve died either way, whether by the other organization after Solis, or eventually by The Order itself. I’m glad I was the last person in her life. Because I fucking loved her.”

I get up from the chair and look down at Nora.

“When this is over,” I tell her in a calm voice, “I will kill you. On principle.”

“Those are bold words,” she says with no emotion on her face. “Threats like that—”

“Oh, it’s not a threat,” I cut in. I point my finger at her. “You don’t fuck with somebody’s loved ones; innocent people who never asked to be related to, or involved with someone not-so-innocent like the rest of us. Only cowards shoot somebody from behind. If you wanted something from one of us, then you should’ve called that person out from the start and dealt with it head-on.”

I take my pack of cigarettes up from the table, shuffling one into my fingers and then slide the pack into my back pocket. Fishing my lighter from a front pocket, I set the end aflame and take a quick drag.

“Good luck with my brother,” I say, smoke streaming from my lips. “And with Gustavsson—I actually look forward to that show.”

And then I walk out after I hear the lock clicking from the inside of the massive door.



Niklas doesn’t join us back in the surveillance room after he leaves Nora. None of us expected him to. I feel terrible for him, and I really had no idea that he actually cared about me at all. He didn’t have to tell Nora anything; no one he loves has their life on the line. Because she’s already dead.

I don’t know what to think, or how to feel anymore when it comes to Niklas. He did try to kill me, after all. But can something like that ever be forgiven? Can a person just sweep a heartless and wicked thing like that under a rug and let bygones be bygones? I don’t know that it can. Or that I want it to. But it doesn’t change the fact that I feel awful about what he went through.

And I feel guilty.

I feel guilty because I’m alive and Claire isn’t.

It was so much easier when I hated him…

“Have you heard any word from Gustavsson?” Dorian asks from his chair in front of the screens.

Victor shakes his head.

“Nothing. I left a message on three of his phones. No response.”

“I’ll try to get in touch with him,” I speak up, “but Victor, he’s more likely to answer your calls than mine. You still hold onto this idea that he hasn’t let go of his bond with me, but I’m telling you that he has. I feel it. I know it. But I’ll try.”

Victor nods.

“I suppose my brother is right,” he says looking at no one. “Gustavsson may have to be dealt with. He is my friend, but since Seraphina, he is not the same man I once knew. And some broken men are just too broken to be put back together.”

Those words coming out of Victor’s mouth sends a chill up my back. Because once Victor has it set in his mind that he has to kill someone, he does it. Only on two other occasions has he ever changed his mind that I know of: first with me when I was on the run with him from Mexico, and then later with Niklas when he thought Niklas had betrayed him. He didn’t go through with killing me because our relationship was complicated, because he was confused by his feelings, and his conscience got the better of him. He didn’t kill Niklas because at the last moment he realized that Niklas was never his enemy. But he was willing and prepared to kill his own brother, a brother he loves so much that he killed their father just to protect him.

Fredrik may be his friend, but Victor’s bond with Fredrik is nowhere near as tight as the one with his brother, or with me.

I’m afraid for Fredrik. And I hope it doesn’t end the way I feel like it’s going to.

Nora waving up at one of the hidden cameras, catches our eyes. “Yoo-hoo!” her voice funnels through the speakers in the room.

“Turn on the mic,” Victor tells Dorian.

Dorian drops his feet from the table and reaches out, covering the computer mouse with the palm of his hand.

“I’ll be needing something to sleep on,” she says in her confident, demanding tone. “We’ll pick the rest of this up tomorrow.”

Victor leans over, bracing his hands on the table in front of the largest screen and says into the mic on a small stand in front of him, “That would be wasting time. Forty-eight hours was little time to begin with.”

Nora smiles cunningly and pushes her silky hair away from her shoulders and out of her eyes.

“Actually, it’s a lot of time for something as simple as confession, if you really think about it.” Her smile broadens. “The only reason you’re feeling pressed for time now is because one of you still hasn’t shown up. Am I wrong?”

Victor doesn’t flinch. “No, you are correct, but just the same, we would like to get as much of this out of the way as possible.”

She walks back and forth in front of the camera slowly, her arms crossed, her tall black heels tapping against the floor. Then she stops and looks back at the camera and repeats, “We’ll pick up where we left off tomorrow.”

Victor nods at Dorian, indicating for him to shut the mic off.

He turns back to us.

“This will give us time to use whatever we have to figure out who she is,” Victor says.

James Woodard comes into the room then, his face reading the same dead-end news as before.

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