We stare into each other’s eyes for a short but tense moment. There’s something else I want to say, about Dina, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid because my heart tells me it’s true, and I don’t want it to be.

I glance down at the floor again, but only for a fleeting moment when I resolve to lay it out on the table, regardless of how much I fear the truth.

“You have no intentions in confessing to Nora, do you?”

He says nothing.

“What she said is true, isn’t it?” I go on, my heart pounding violently. “You’re not going to tell her anything because your organization is more important to you than I am.”

Victor just looks at me, but I see something shift in his green-blue eyes, something so faint that I can’t decipher. I want it to be disbelief, heartbreak, something that would indicate my accusation is wrong and unfounded. But I’m left with nothing. No words. No answer of any kind, which to me can only mean one thing.

I storm away in the opposite direction that Niklas had gone, and leave Victor standing there.

I sit alone outside on the roof of the five-story building, looking down at the city streets; very few cars weaving through them casually this late hour. A stoplight out ahead has been red for five minutes at least; the single car waiting for it to turn green just sitting there patiently. So unlike me, who would’ve blazed through it angrily by now and flipped the camera off on my way. I laugh derisively to myself thinking about the irony.

The night air is cool, but not cold. A gentle breeze brushes through my hair and although it’s not much, it’s peaceful and I’ll take what I can get. I don’t know why I never thought to come out here before; there’s no shortage of stress in my life, that’s for sure.

The clock is ticking. I don’t know what time it is anymore because I left my phone in the surveillance room, but I know the Dark Hour is so close I can feel the weight of it pressing down on my shoulders. I’ve given up hope in saving Dina from all of this, from my stupid decisions dating back to when I first decided I wanted this life. I could’ve just stayed with her and lived as normal as anyone else, but I chose a path that, even if by some miracle she lives through this, will always put her in danger. Dina doesn’t deserve this. But I was selfish and wasn’t thinking about anyone but myself when I chose this life. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t know she’d be in harm’s way, it’s still my fault.

The light turns green and the car slowly rolls through the intersection. I watch it until the brake lights blink out when it slips behind a nearby building.

“It’s a nice night,” I hear James Woodard say from somewhere behind me.

I don’t respond and I don’t look at him. I sit on the roof with my legs drawn up bent at the knees, my arms wrapped loosely around them, my back in a hunched position.

James sits down next to me, shuffling awkwardly on his weight so he doesn’t fall over. The smell of his thick cologne passes me on a breeze.

“I wanted to tell you what Sarah and Ann-Marie had to say. I was startin’ to think you’d run off somewhere. Couldn’t find you and no one knew where you were.”

“What did they say?” I ask, deadpanned. “Your daughters?”

I keep my eyes on the sleeping city.

“Well, seems they only saw Nora,” he says. “She was waitin’ inside the house when they came back from a friend’s. They said at first she claimed she was there to take them to safety, but Ann-Marie didn’t trust her and she started screamin’ hoping the neighbors would hear. That’s when Nora knocked her out cold with the butt of a gun. Sarah stood there watchin’, terrified and couldn’t move, poor thing—she always was the deer-in-headlights type. Next thing they knew they were in a trunk and rode like that for about thirty, forty-five minutes. She kept them in a house out in the middle of nowhere, tied to some furniture or somethin’. But anyway, they finally got the ropes loose and made a run for it. They hitchhiked on the highway—to think my daughters were out there alone on a dark highway like that, it makes me want to shoot that woman myself.”

“Are they OK?” I ask, still looking out ahead.

“Yeah,” he says. “She didn’t hurt them really. Just scared them mostly. But I’m glad they got free—I don’t want to think about what Nora would’ve done if—.” He stops, realizing he’s treading all too familiar waters. “Sorry, I didn’t mean—”

“It’s OK, James. I’m glad your daughters are safe.”

I see him nod in my peripheral vision.

“The boss said that Nora must be working alone, or else she would’ve left someone there with my daughters. They wouldn’t have gotten away.”

I nod, agreeing with that assessment, but can’t find it in me to engage him in conversation. I really wanted to spend this time out here alone, just me and my thoughts, but I don’t have the heart or the energy to tell James to leave. He really isn’t a bad guy, and I kind of feel sorry for him—he’s always trying to make Victor proud of him, or to join in on Niklas and Dorian’s casual conversations, but he never really quite fits in. And Fredrik, well James admires him for some baffling reason, to the point of it being kind of pathetic. But Fredrik apparently doesn’t believe in friendship so James doesn’t have a chance and never will because lions just don’t eat with zebras.

“If she’s working alone,” James says, “that means no one’s watching Dorian’s ex-wife, or your mom. If she dies here, that means there’s no one out there to hurt them.”

“Or, it means that their bonds were tighter, or they were locked in a room and can’t get out,” I say, “and if Nora dies then she can’t tell us where to find them and they’ll die anyway.”

James shifts uncomfortably next to me, knowing that I’m right.

“Or, it means that she isn’t working alone,” I go on, my gaze still fixed on the street, “and that your daughters getting away was all just part of her plan.”

I glance over. James has that look on his chubby face, the one where he feels stupid and regrets saying anything.

“I’m sorry, James,” I say. “I know you’re trying to be positive and I appreciate that. I really do”—I sigh long and deep and change the subject—“I really hate that woman. I’ve said it a hundred times, to Victor, to myself, but I feel like I can’t say it enough. I hate her but at the same time, I wish I was more like her.”


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