A grin spreads across Woodard’s heavily cracked lips.
“Do you even know his first name?”
I don’t answer, but I imagine the confused look on my face does that for me.
“That’s what I thought,” Woodard says.
He’s feeling much more confident now about this whole situation. I, on the other hand, have surpassed the feeling of anxiousness about getting back to Cassia in time, and am now more concerned about the things Woodard is telling us.
Dorian shoves the barrel of his gun into Woodard’s chest and forces him back into the chair.
“What the f**k are you trying to pull?” Dorian demands. “Marion Callahan has been reporting your stubby ass up the chain of command. Our boss knows what you did. If Callahan was the leader of another organization, why would he be messing with you at all? Why not just go to the source and take out our boss if he’s such a ghost?”
“Because Callahan can’t get to our boss,” I say, pulling Dorian by the shoulder to move him away from Woodard. “He’s trying to get in the old fashioned way, by working his way up that chain of command, gaining trust by pretending to weed out traitors.”
“OK, but since when do bosses go out in the field and get their hands dirty like that?” Dorian brings up a good point. “Why risk himself by putting himself out there? Why not just get one of his men to do it?”
“Because the best place to hide is in plain sight,” I say. “And if it was me and I wanted to take out another leader, I’d probably do it myself, too.”
Woodard nods at me as if telling me he couldn’t have said it better.
Even Victor Faust is guilty of this, wanting to be the one to take out the leaders. It’s like another badge on his shirt, a trophy, and completely understandable. When Victor sent me to France to get the key to the deposit box in New York from François Moreau, he didn’t send me there to kill their leader, Sébastien Fournier. He insisted that he’d be the one to take Fournier out.
“There’s one thing to prove before anything you’ve said can be taken into consideration.” I sit down on the ottoman in front of Woodard again, making sure he has a good view of the needle dangling from my fingers in-between my knees. “The information on those drives that you sold to Marion Callahan.”
Woodard’s chin jiggles again as he nods rapidly.
“It can be verified,” he says putting up his hands in surrender. “I swear it.”
I glance at Dorian still standing at my left. “Looks like you’ll be babysitting tonight,” I say and he looks instantly argumentative. “I’m going to get in contact with our employer after I leave here and tell him everything that was said here tonight.”
“Fuckin’ A, man, you can’t be serious,” Dorian contends, waving his gun hand out beside him. “I can’t f**king stay here. It smells like cough drops and…,” he wrinkles his whole face, “…cheese.”
I get up from the ottoman and dig in my pocket for the protective cap, slipping it back on the needle.
“If his story doesn’t check out,” I say as I start to walk past Dorian, “then you can shoot him,” I add with my hand on his shoulder.
Despite knowing I’ll never hear the end of this from Dorian later, I leave him there with James Woodard and set out to do what I have to do. First, I call Victor and tell him everything about our visit with Woodard. He instructs me to wait until I receive word about what to do next, which thankfully got me out of doing anything else about it for the rest of the night.
Now I can focus on Cassia.
My teeth are on edge, my throat is dry, my head is spinning with scenarios, all of which begin with a brutal interrogation and end with Cassia remembering more of her past and more about Seraphina. But I’ve waited too long as it is. I have no one to take back to interrogate.
Feeling defeated and angry about how wrong this night has gone, I slam both hands against the steering wheel. The back of my neck is sweating. I’ve been grinding my teeth so abrasively on the drive back that my jaw hurts.
Just when I think it’s over and that I’ll have to wait another week or two before I get another interrogation job, I accept in my mind that returning to my old ways is all I have left.
And so I make a sharp U-turn in the split in the road and head east to find a man I’ve had on my backup list for times just like these, when I have no other choice.
The man’s screams fill my ears with terror, like hands reaching for me out of an inferno and it burns too hotly for me to pull them out. All I can do is cover my ears with the palms of my hands and hope to deafen them. I don’t want to look, but my subconscious forces my eyes open every few seconds as if a part of me can’t resist. I sit on the floor, curled in the fetal position with my back against the wall. My favorite corner. The one farthest away from the enormous television screen protected behind a thick piece of Plexi-glass. The television feeds live video of the other side of the basement, the side that has been closed off by a brick wall, and a single wooden door so thin that I don’t really need the volume up on the television in order to hear the sounds coming from the other room.
“Please…please…I can’t…I can’t take anymore,” the man says from the ominous chair that often haunts my dreams. “I’ve told you everything! I can’t tell you what I don’t know!” Blood spews from the man’s swollen and busted lips. Fredrik beat him before he started pulling out his teeth.
Why did Fredrik beat him? He never resorts to that.
Have I angered him?
I swallow what’s left of the saliva in my mouth and shut my eyes as tears seep between my lids and down my chapped cheeks. My arms are wrapped around my bent knees, pressed tightly against my chest. I’m shaking all over. Every inch of me trembles so terribly that I feel like I’m going to fall apart. I rock myself back and forth, weeping.
And then I begin to sing. I don’t know this song, but it feels so familiar. I know the words, yet I’m not sure how I know them.
With my hands pressed over my ears, I sing louder as the man’s screams amplify.
I sing louder….
I stop abruptly, the bloody pliers suspended in my hand just above the head of Dante Furlong, heroin dealer from the West Side. Even his blood stinks, not like normal blood which smells metallic and harsh. Is it possible to smell the evil in someone like a canine might scent a tumor?