Victor looks to Niklas. “Fredrik will be here. Of that I have no doubt, Niklas. For now, let’s find out what this woman wants. And what she knows.”

Woodard’s pudgy hand comes up and wipes sweat from his bushy brows. Moisture is already seeping through the armpits of his plaid shirt.

“Woodard,” Victor says, “I’ll say the same thing I said to Izabel—no information on this organization will be given to this woman. Is that understood?”

A knot moves down the center of Woodard’s thick throat and he nods uneasily, wiping more sweat from his brows. “Yes, sir. I understand, sir.”

That one will have to be watched, for sure. He seems unstable, afraid and desperate—three of about five ingredients needed for someone to cave and spill everything they know. But I understand his fear and I can’t help but feel sorry for him instead of worried what he might give away.

Victor punches in the code on the door and all five of us head inside the room.

4

Izabel

Nora’s dark red lips stretch into an enormous close-lipped smile when we enter the room with her. Her long, white-blonde hair is like a milky wave of silk down the sides of her face and over both shoulders, stark against the color of her lipstick. Her dark eyelashes and groomed brows seem set artistically above and around the light brown of her irises. High cheekbones give her creamy skin even more definition. And although, I admit, mesmerizing to look at, she’s not without flaw. A thin half-inch scar runs along the left side of her chin; another one, about two inches long, runs horizontally across the center of her throat. And, the most noticeable, she’s missing the tip of her left pinky finger.

She raises her arms as far as the chains will allow at about shoulder height, her palms up, and then tilts her head to one side.

“Glad you all could make it,” she says with a big, confident smile and then lowers her hands on the table, the cuffs rattling against the metal. “With one exception, of course.”

“Let’s skip the dramatic monologue,” I say icily, stepping up ahead of the others. “None of us care to hear how witty you can be, or what kinds of cheesy fucking lines you can come up with while you dangle the meat in front of our faces. What the fuck do you want?”

Nora sighs dramatically, pursing her red lips on one side, but never really loses that confident smile of hers that I want to slap right off her face.

Victor steps up next to me, but he doesn’t force me away, or tell me to be quiet. He won’t go that far in front of her unless he thinks I’m making a mistake, and I admit, sometimes it’s warranted because I have a hard time controlling my anger.

Nora’s brown eyes follow him and she looks him over from his shiny, expensive dress shoes, his black Armani suit jacket and to the top of his nicely-groomed hair. Surely she’s ‘looked him over’ in this sultry manner already, but now that I’m in the room with him she must be trying to push the jealous buttons. It doesn’t work because I know I have nothing to worry about.

“Shall we begin?” Victor says.

“Of course,” she says, as always with an air of sophistication. “I would say have a seat, but seeing as how there’s only one extra chair…”

“We’re fine to stand,” Dorian says with impatience, stepping up beside us. “Let’s get on with this.”

Niklas moves off to the side to stand against the wall. He’s as interested as anyone in what Nora has to say, but he appears bored. He crosses his muscled arms over his chest and brings one foot up, propping the sole of his boot against the wall behind him.

Woodard has barely moved the whole time. He continues to stand in the center of the room, sweating profusely and looking like he’s about to be forced on a rollercoaster and is afraid of heights—if any of us cracks under the pressure, it’s likely to be Woodard.

Nora’s eyes scan us all, one by one. Propping her elbows on the chair arms, she interlocks her fingers over her lap dressed in black leather, her hands dangling there.

“As I’ve said,” Nora begins smoothly, confidently, “one of you knows who I am, or at least will realize who I am by the time this is all over.”

We all look at each other, all except for Victor who keeps his eyes trained on the enemy—always focused, always disciplined, always absorbing every miniscule detail, always the one of us who has his shit together at all times no matter the situation.

“This is how the game will be played,” she goes on. “I want information, and if I don’t get the information that I came here for”—she smirks and points her index finger upward—“yes, I said came here, because I wouldn’t be sitting here in this room if I hadn’t let you bring me.”

“I suppose you wanted to be chained to a chair, too,” I cut in sarcastically.

She raises her wrists as if to show us the handcuffs.

“These little things?” she says mockingly.

“Get to the point,” Victor cuts her off.

Her brown eyes move from me to Victor and then after a pause, she goes on.

“Each one of you will give me information. Privately—“she points her finger upward again—“except the one of you who I’m here for. That particular person will have no choice but to give me the information that I want in front of everyone else. And if he or she refuses, your loved ones will be executed.”

I swallow nervously and picture Dina’s face in my mind.

Dorian steps closer, his hands balled into fists at his sides, his teeth grinding, and rage in his face.

Victor puts out his arm without moving any other part of his body, stopping Dorian in his tracks. Dorian doesn’t go any farther.

Nora’s eyes pass over Dorian as she warns, “And if I die, they will also be executed.”

She interlocks her fingers over her lap again.

“Lastly, if my contact doesn’t hear from me in forty-eight hours, that will also get your loved ones killed. So, are you willing to play?” Her gaze falls on all of us once more.

“It’s going to depend solely on what kind of information you want,” Victor speaks up. “And you seem to overlook the very clear fact that you are my prisoner. What makes you think that we won’t simply use you to get these people back? If you know anything about me, and apparently you do, then you should know that I will not give up information on my organization, nor will I let anyone else”—he places his hands on the table and leans over, looking her dead in the eyes—“and I have no problem killing a woman.”


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