I need her now.
I need her now because Cassia can be broken. And I don’t want to hurt Cassia. I could never live with myself if I allowed my demons to ravage her like I ravaged Seraphina.
Sometime during my soulless haze, Cassia managed to slide off the counter and now she stands in front of me.
How did I get here?
I look up to find that I’ve already stepped out of the bathroom, but I never remember walking through the doorway.
“Fredrik,” Cassia’s voice is soft and pleading and concerned.
I put up both hands, creating a wall between us. She stops and looks upon me with hurt in her eyes.
“I’ll ask you one more time,” I say calmly and avoiding eye contact. “Tell me what you remember.”
“I’m sorry,” she says gently and not at all out of anger, “but I meant what I said. You owe me that much. I don’t care what you do to me. I don’t care if you put me in that chair again.” I feel her presence as she steps up closer, but I take another step back. “Do what you have to.”
A last desperate attempt consumes me and I swing the rest of the way around at her. “I can’t tell you!” I lean over into her face, but she stands her ground rather than shrinking away from me as I halfway expected her to do. “Why are you making this so hard, Cassia?” My voice begins to calm, reduced from anger to pleading. “I can’t talk to you about Seraphina. Not you, of all people in this f**king world! Why can’t you understand that?!”
Cassia reaches up and wipes the tears from her eyes. Then very slowly, as if it’s the last thing she wants, she turns on her heels and walks toward the corner I often find her in.
She sits down, pressing her back against the wall and pulling her knees toward her chest with her gown stretched over them.
Then she looks up at me and says one last time, “Do what you have to do.”
Wanting to put my fist through a wall, I storm over to the shackle and chain, taking it up into my hand and approach her with it. Crouching down beside her, I take her uninjured ankle and lock the shackle around it. She doesn’t look at me much less fight me.
I make my way to the staircase and stop only long enough to hear her say, “I’ll forgive you, Fredrik. For whatever you have to do to me,” and I swallow down the pain her words caused and leave her sitting there.
I can’t torture her. Maybe she knows it. Maybe she’s playing me for a fool, using reverse psychology on me. I don’t know, but I can’t do that to her.
But I will do something.
Before this day is over, she’ll tell me what she remembers.
I’ll get it out of her. One way or another.
I spend the rest of the day ignoring Cassia, and only checking in on her every so often by way of the video feed streaming from her room. I’ve thought of everything and the only idea that comes to mind is forcing her to watch another interrogation. Forcing her to watch me kill a man. For a while, it was what I intended to do. Instead of making her watch from one side of the basement, I was going to tie her to a chair in the interrogation room with me and let her see it up close and personal. Let her witness the horrific torture that she can barely stand to see through a television screen. Smell the fresh blood as it’s drawn, the sweat.
But there’s only one problem: I don’t have anyone to torture. No one left like Dante Furlong who I know deserves to be put through that. The closest ‘backup’ I have is four hours from here and I can’t leave Cassia alone in the basement for that long.
Feeling utterly defeated, and angry, and resentful towards Cassia for keeping the one thing from me that I need, I shoot up from the sofa, accidently knocking my portable tray with my dinner over onto the floor. Reaching up with both hands, I drag them through the top of my dark hair, clenching my teeth and biting back the roar sitting behind my tongue.
My arms fall to my sides and I look up at the ceiling, letting the defeat do what it wants with me.
But then suddenly a thought flickers in my mind and all is right in the world again. I take the iPad from the sofa beside me and switch on the camera in my bedroom. In a split screen, Cassia looks up instantly when she hears the television in her room come on. She stares at the live feed of my empty bedroom for a moment, curious, confused, and nervous.
If I can’t scare or torture the information out of her, I’ll draw it out in an equally cruel way.
I slip my feet down into my dress shoes and then my arms into the sleeves of my suit jacket, afterwards shrugging my long coat on. As I walk briskly through the kitchen I swipe my keys from the counter and leave the house.
It’s not usually my style, picking a woman up from a noisy bar like this one that smells of ash trays and cheap whiskey. The place is loud with drunk voices and some kind of classic rock continuously streams from the speakers of a juke box. I typically hunt in quieter places where wine is served and I can hear myself think. But this isn’t a typical night and I don’t have time to hunt in my usual places.
I’m out of place, dressed in an Armani suit and shiny black shoes and an eight thousand dollar watch. It’s all drawing attention, but that only makes it easier for me.
It doesn’t take long after I’m seated at the bar with my shoes propped on the stool’s spindle to find the woman I want. Dark hair that streams past her shoulders. Her eyes are brown, I can tell even from this far across the room. She’s petite, wearing a loose-fitting black skirt that stops just above her knees, and a pair of black women’s cowboy boots on her feet. A long-sleeved black top that buttons down the front covers her upper-body, but the top few buttons have been left undone revealing her cle**age. A long, silver chain necklace is draped around her dainty, cream-colored throat with a pendant dangling on the end that dips below her br**sts.
She’s single. At least for tonight she is. I can tell by the way the two men standing next to her by the pool table are eyeing her and her friend. The way both women smile and blush when the men say how beautiful they are and how much they’d like to take them home tonight. I can’t actually hear what they’re saying, but whatever their exact words, it all translates to the same thing.
The dark-haired woman, the one I want, has already made eye contact with me once.
This will be easy.
I sit hunched over the bar with my arms resting on the bar top, a small glass of whiskey in my right hand. I run the tips of my fingers up and down the artistic indentions in the side of the glass to appear distracted. My long black coat is draped on the back of the stool behind me. I left the suit jacket on, unbuttoned, and my white dress-shirt untucked from my slacks.