“One operative was eliminated by Niklas yesterday. He did not pass the final tests. Spilled all of the false information we gave him to Izabel.”

“Ah, I see,” I say, tilting my head back briefly. “And how is Izabel doing in the field?”

“She’s doing well,” Victor says, but offers me nothing more, which strikes me in a curious way.

“It’s not my place to ask,” I say, “but is there anything to worry about?”

Victor looks over at me. He shakes his head. “Nothing you need to worry about,” he clarifies. “My brother, on the other hand, I wonder every day if I’ll get word that she has finally slit his throat.”

I try to force my smile at bay, but it pushes its way to the surface. I shake my head and bring the bottle to my lips again just to attempt to conceal as much of the smile as I can. “Well, that doesn’t surprise me. Surely, you didn’t think it would.”

Finally, I set the bottle on the table near Victor’s.

“No, I did not,” he says with a faint hint of a smile in his voice. “I doubt they will ever get along. It doesn’t help that Niklas doesn’t know when to shut his mouth. But Izabel…,” he shakes his head with his short brown hair, as if he’s concluding in his mind that there’s no hope in this situation, “…she is just as bad as he is.”

“As long as their…differences, don’t get in the way of our operations,” I say, “then it’s probably best to let them ride it out.” I shrug. “Besides, you know as well as I do that Niklas deserves the shit beat out of him every once in a while. He’s almost…,” I point my index finger up in front of me in emphasis, “…almost as bad a Dorian.”

Victor switches feet, propping his left on his right knee. He drops his arms between the chair arms, leaving his elbows propped on the intricately carved wood, and he interlaces his fingers.

“Speaking of Dorian,” he says, “how did he do in France?”

I sigh, shake my head and glance upward at the ceiling for a moment, expelling a burst of air before dropping my head and looking at him again.

“Like Niklas, Dorian is a train wreck,” I say. “I admit, he gets the job done, and he never makes a mistake, but he shocks even me at times. And, as you know, that’s not an easy thing to do.”

Victor raises an inquisitive brow. “Shocks you?” he says. “Yes, I do find that hard to believe.”

I nod quickly. “Well, yes. He’s trigger-happy.”

“That is his job,” Victor says. “To kill the enemy and anyone who steps in the way.”

“Yes, but,”—I chew on the inside of my mouth in thought—, “he’s quite brutal. Kills without thinking.”

Victor actually laughs, throwing his head back once and laughs. It stuns me for a moment, but I recover quickly.

He picks his beer up from the table and points at me with it in his hand and says before placing his lips on the glass, “You, of all people, accuse Dorian of being brutal because he kills without thinking about it.” His laughter begins to fade but it’s still present in his voice. “Don’t you think that perhaps it shocks you because, unlike you, Dorian doesn’t play with his food before he eats it? He’s your polar opposite. How do you think he felt the first time he witnessed you in the interrogation room?”

He takes one more drink and sets the beer back on the table.

“OK, yes, I do see your point,” I say with a faint smile.

“So, then he’s doing well?” Victor adds, dropping the humor and getting back to business. “I trust that he hasn’t set off any red flags since he became your partner?”

I shake my head. “No, he hasn’t. And so far he has passed all of the tests.” I shake my head again, though this time with a long, deep sigh. “I hate to say it, but I think you were right about him, too.”

I hated to say it because when I first met Dorian Flynn, I wanted to strap him to a chair and pump his veins full of poison. He talked too much. Was cocky, arrogant, and incredibly impetuous. He’s still all of those things. But he is, unfortunately for the sake of my killing him being put on hold probably indefinitely, an excellent operative.

But this poses an important question.

“How long exactly is Dorian expected to be my…partner?” I ask, practically having to scrape that dirty word right off my tongue. “I prefer to work alone. Unless, of course, you’re involved. You I can work with if necessary. Dorian, well, he kind of makes me want to stick the needles into my own veins at times.”

Victor smiles faintly again.

“A few weeks more at the most,” he says. “Just until he helps with the mission in Washington. After that, I’ll put him on his own.”

Then he adds, “I put the two of you together for the same reasons I put Niklas and Izabel together. You all need to learn to work together without killing each other.”

I smirk. “And you just get along with everyone?” I ask with sarcasm, though entirely innocent and Victor knows this.

He simply nods. “I suppose.”

Silence passes between us for the first time since he arrived. I hear Greta moving around in the kitchen—the sound of pans clanking on the stove and then the water running in the faucet as she begins to clean the vegetables. She always leaves the water running when she’s cleaning vegetables.

“Fredrik,” Victor says, breaking the silence.

He looks over at me and I meet his eyes, his painted darkly with concern and questions.

“I hear that you’ve been looking for Seraphina again,” he says. “Is this true?”

I keep a straight face, not letting him know that his question has stirred something dark inside of me.

“Yes, I have,” I answer honestly. “But I’m not letting it interfere with our operations.”

Victor nods, but I get the feeling he doesn’t believe me entirely.

It was just a few months ago, after he helped save my life from an ambush orchestrated by Vonnegut, head of our former Order, to take me out. I came clean and admitted to Victor that I never did kill my ex-wife, Seraphina, like he believed long ago that I had. I couldn’t kill her. She may have betrayed me and tried to kill me, but there was still a part of her that I didn’t want to let go. That in the end even when Seraphina was within reach of me, although I could’ve, I couldn’t force myself to take her life. Seraphina was the first and only interrogation that I could not break. And she was also the first and only interrogation I could not finish.

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