He drinks the last of his coffee down and leaves the room, snagging the apple from the table next to the coffee pot on his way out.
“I hope he doesn’t kill her,” I tell Victor. It does worry me because Dorian’s middle name is Trigger-Happy, and even if his ex-wife’s life is on the line, I’m not so sure he can control his anger.
Niklas ignores us and sits down in the chair that Dorian just left.
Victor steps up next to me in front of the screens; the cool, thin material of his white dress shirt brushes against my arm. He moves his arm behind me, fitting his hand at my waist, his long fingers spread about my hip. I always welcome and crave his touch, no matter where or how or who’s watching, but right now it makes me uncomfortable. I feel the need to glance over at Niklas again, to see if he’s watching, or bothered by it, but I think I’m just being paranoid; my guilt is getting the best of me.
My eyes fall on the screen when Dorian enters the room with Nora. He walks straight over to the table where she now sits in her usual chair, and he places the apple in front of her.
Nora wrinkles her nose at it, and then raises her eyes to Dorian.
“An apple?” she says with disappointment.
“It’s something to eat, isn’t it?”
Dorian sits down at the other side of the table, resting his elbows on top of it, steepling his hands.
Nora smiles charmingly, one side of her mouth lifting higher than the other.
“So let’s do this,” Dorian says, motioning a hand.
“Eager, aren’t we?” she taunts him.
“No, I think tired-of-your-shit is more like it.”
She laughs gently and crosses one leg over the other, folding her hands together on her lap, looking tall and regal and stunning.
“Your reputation is accurate,” she says. “Cocky, mouthy, impatient—you’re almost as bad as Niklas Fleischer.” She leans forward. “Tell me—how does a guy like you; gorgeous, dangerous and obvious because of the trail of bodies you tend to leave behind, not end up on everyone’s radar?”
“What do you mean?” he asks, confused, curious.
“What I mean is that you were the most difficult to find any information on. Of course, I doubt your real name is Dorian Flynn—mine isn’t Nora Kessler; I made it up when I got here; Kessler just now.” She grins and rests her arms on the table like Dorian. “I followed you for months—worked at a restaurant not far from your apartment in Manhattan; that one you like so well that serves your favorite clam chowder. Of course you wouldn’t recognize me because I looked very different then”—a look of realization crosses Dorian’s features and Nora’s smile lengthens when she notices—“yeah, you’re getting it now aren’t you?”
“You were my waitress,” he says, growing more confused. “I remember you…your hair was darker and shorter…your makeup was different…you talked like a New Yorker.” He appears conflicted and uncomfortable.
“Oh don’t be so hard on yourself,” Nora says. “I’m good at what I do. I could’ve sat down in the booth with you and engaged you in conversation and you wouldn’t recognize me later unless I wanted you to.”
My mind is running away with me now, hundreds of images flashing across my thoughts, trying to pick her face or her voice or any part of her out of the thousands of people I’ve come into contact with. Could she have been there, in Mexico with me at some point? It doesn’t seem likely—I doubt she even knew who I was until after I fled Mexico with Victor. But none of that stops me from relentlessly trying to spot her face in any part of my past.
I glance over at Victor, and then Niklas, and judging by the deep looks of concentration on their faces, they’re doing the same thing.
“I lifted your fingerprints from your glass,” Nora says. “You used to be Adam Barnett of Katy, Texas. Arrested multiple times as a juvenile and spent most of your teenage life in the system. Cared for by adoptive parents until they couldn’t deal with you anymore and later gave you up—nothing everybody else here doesn’t already know, I’m sure. I kept searching. But your info trail ended abruptly at the age of sixteen. It was like you fell off the face of the planet. No driver’s license or work record, no tax information, not even a credit card purchase—under either name. The point is that”—her eyes harden with focus—“you’re in a way like me; a person with no real identity. And I wonder why that is?” Her question is heavy with accusation, as though she already has a good idea of the answer—considering the reason she’s here, she probably does.
“Look at what I do,” Dorian says exasperated, pressing his back against the chair. “I’m not supposed to be easy to find or to figure out. If I were, I wouldn’t be any good and I’d probably already be dead by now.”
“This is true,” she says with a nod, “you are good. You’re good because I couldn’t find anything. I was getting worried you wouldn’t get to play the game with everybody else because I had nothing on you, nothing to force you to confess”—she smiles wickedly—“but then something extraordinary happened, something I never expected. When Tessa first saw me she said something that really got my attention before she was chained to the furnace. Do you want to know what she said?”
Dorian looks nervous.
Nora looks increasingly sly.
Niklas’ eyes actually meet mine for a brief moment of question, but fall away just as quickly.
Victor stands stock-still, looking into that screen as if what he’s about to hear is the most important thing he’s going to hear all day.
“What did she say?” Dorian asks reluctantly, turning his blond head slightly at an angle and narrowing his eyes on Nora.
Nora smiles sweetly.
“She said, ‘I won’t tell you anything’, before she was even asked any questions.” Nora pauses, cocking her head to one side. “Now that’s not something an innocent person, uninvolved, would usually say in a time like that, is it?”
Dorian’s fist slams against the table, knocking the apple onto its side. It rolls awkwardly a little ways before stopping near the edge.
“Tessa is innocent,” he rips the words out angrily, “and if you hurt her—”
“Oh, I’ve already hurt her,” Nora cuts him off snidely. “I hurt her enough to get what I wanted out of her, but what happens to her later will depend on what happens in this room today, as you’re already aware.”