Then my knife hand begins to tremble and my breathing becomes unsteady.
I slide the knife away from her throat, push her head down forcibly against the tile with the other hand, shoving myself angrily to my feet and off of her. I don’t look at her when she gets up, struggling into a stand with her ankles bound. And I look only at the floor when she shuffles right past me, picking up her black heels along the way, and goes back over to her seat on the other side of the table.
I keep my back to her, unable to move; my eyes beginning to burn from the angry tears pushing their way to the surface. My knife is gripped within my hand firmly, resting down at my side. I feel like using it on myself.
“Shall we begin?” Nora says as calmly as ever, waiting for me at the table. “I’m eager to hear all about your time in Mexico.” She says it in a more audible voice, glancing at a camera.
Raising my head slowly, I look up toward the tiny hidden camera fixed in the vent near the ceiling to my right. I look right at Victor, or at least I hope he realizes that’s what I’m doing, my eyes filled with regret and shame and…sorrow.
A tear tumbles down one cheek, but I don’t have the energy to wipe it away.
My eyes fall away from the camera and look at the floor instead.
“Turn off the audio,” I instruct Dorian.
Niklas argues, “Wait, we need to leave it on in case—”
“I said turn it off.”
For the first time since I entered this room, I feel the need to sit down.
“Victor, this is a mistake,” Niklas says. “Anything Nora says could be of use.”
“I am aware, Niklas.”
The audio goes dead as Dorian switches it off at the table to my right.
I keep my eyes on the screen. A hidden hatred for Nora begins to make itself known inside of me, seething beneath the surface and growing darker the more she hurts Izabel.
“Izabel suffered enough,” I cut him off with acid in my voice. I turn only my head to look at my brother. “You have no idea what she went through in Mexico, Niklas—none of us really do. This woman may be forcing her to tell her things I’m sure Izabel wants no one to know, least of all us, or me. But we’re not going to listen in on her confession. Whatever it is, it’s her secret. Her business. And when she’s ready to tell you or me or anyone else, only then will we hear it.”
Niklas relents easily.
Nodding he says, “No, you’re right. Besides, if Nora says anything that Izabel thinks we can use, she’ll let us know.”
I nod and turn back to the screen.
A chip bag rattles behind me in the vicinity of Woodard.
Aggravated by it, I say, “Leave us and see if you’ve gotten anything on this woman’s blood or fingerprints. I want to know who she is before this night is over.”
“Yes, sir,” Woodard says and leaves the room hurriedly.
I stare at the screen, at Izabel’s auburn hair disheveled about her shoulders; the pain in her green eyes, and all I can do is watch as she is forced to relive something she has only ever wanted to forget.
Absently I reach up a hand and wipe blood from the corner of my mouth, and then tongue the swollen tissue on the inside where my teeth broke the flesh.
“Sit down, Sarai,” Nora says.
“My name is Izabel.”
“Your new name is Izabel,” she says, surprisingly with a little less mockery, “but you can’t bury who you used to be no matter how hard you try. None of us ever can.”
I sheathe my knife and sit—might as well stop fighting the inevitable.
I don’t look at her.
“What the fuck do you want to know…exactly?” I ask icily.
“You already know the answer to that.”
I raise my head and look at her with cold, hooded eyes.
“I’m still going to need you to elaborate,” I say. “I did a lot of things I’m not proud of. And I’m only willing to tell the one you’re here for, so how about you help me out a little so we can get this over with.”
I still don’t want to believe that she really knows anything; maybe if I continue to probe her for clues she’ll eventually trip herself up. But deep down I feel like she knows far more than I want her to know. And I can’t risk Dina’s life.
Nora spears her fingers through the top of her hair, pushing the fallen strands away from her face. Another bruise accompanied by a lump is forming on her cheekbone. A tiny vertical sliver of blood is evident in the very center of her plump bottom lip; lipstick is smeared across her mouth again. She reaches up a hand and wipes it all away, leaving her lips pinkish and slightly swollen.
I don’t even bother asking about the handcuffs. If she got out of them once she can probably get out of them again. Whoever comes into this room next will have the job of detaining her.
“You were a sex slave to a Mexican drug lord,” she begins, “for most of your teenage and young adult life. A sex slave, Izabel. Tell me…how many did you have?”
I look up, meeting her brown eyes. Again, there’s no mockery, just a serious, determined face looking back at me as if I were being punished, forced to tell the truth to lessen my sentence.
I swallow and choke a little, looking down at my hands on the table.
And then I confess my darkest secret.
Mexico – About seven years ago…
My head throbbed beneath my fingertips as I lay on my side against the wood floor. My mouth was filled with blood; I began to choke on the metallic taste. Tears streamed from my eyes, sobs rattled my body, sobs that would go unheard while Izel, Javier’s wicked sister, was the only one in the room with me.
“Get up you stupid fucking puta! Levántate!”
She came at me again, dressed in a short, tight black skirt that left nothing between her legs to the imagination when she crouched over me barefooted. Long, black hair draped her bare shoulders; her chest was covered by a spaghetti-strap red tank-top, her large breasts practically spilling out over the tight fabric.
She wrenched her hand in the top of my hair.
“Please, Izel! Please don’t hit me! I-I didn’t take it! I swear!” I tried to cover my face with my hands, but she slapped them away.
“Open your eyes!”
Trembling all over, I opened my eyes.
She spit in my face and slammed my head against the floor.
I felt the wind shift as she rose into a standing position above me. I was afraid to look up at her. I shook all over and stank of urine and sweat and filth. I wore a long blue dress, a hideous thing it was, something that had been made for an old lady. But the smooth, thin material was cool on my skin in the brutal summer heat and I cherished it very much.