“ALL RIGHT! FUCK! ALL RIGHT! I’LL TELL YOU!” Dorian raises his head, pressing it against the wall. His chest rises and falls rapidly underneath his black shirt. Sweat has beaded on his forehead, dripping down the sides of his face. He can hardly keep his body upright as his back begins to slouch farther; only the soles of his boots grounded against the floor, his knees bent, keeping him from sliding down all the way.

“I’m an independent contractor for U.S. Intelligence,” Dorian confesses to the shock of everyone in the room—all but Nora, who looks proud and strangely relieved. He looks across the room at us. At Victor. “But it’s not what you think,” he says, fighting through the pain. “I’m not here to betray you, Faust”—he pauses to catch his breath—“I never was…it’s not what you think…”

Victor says nothing. Not even his demeanor appears to have changed, but on the inside I feel it’s a much different story.

“Put the gun on the floor and kick it aside,” Victor tells Nora, his gun still trained on the back of her head.

Nora’s arms raise out at her sides in surrender; the gun sliding down onto her index finger as she releases her grip on the handle. Slowly she takes two steps backward away from Dorian, crouches, and then places the gun on the floor. She rises back into a stand and kicks it gently away from the easy reach of her or Dorian.

With her hands still raised she turns around, a smile dancing on her face, her long, silky blonde hair tumbling over her shoulders and partially covering one brown eye.

“Niklas,” Victor says without moving his hard gaze from Nora, “tie her up. Hands and feet and torso. And make certain there is no way she can get out of it.”

“Gladly,” Niklas says with his trademark smirk and then leaves to get whatever he plans to use to tie her up with.

Minutes later, Nora is bound to her chair so tight by several yards of paracord that the only thing she can seem to move anymore are her fingers, and her head.

No one said anything while Niklas tied her up, and still the air is rife with silence several minutes later. Dorian, clearly in a lot of pain from two gunshot wounds, even manages to keep his discomfort confined to facial expressions and body language.

Two men in suits come into the room behind us and Victor orders them to detain Dorian and take him to cell C.

“But you have to listen to me,” Dorian says as he’s being dragged across the room. “At least let me talk before you kill me, Faust. Give me a chance to explain myself. It’s not what you think!”

Victor still says nothing, and as always, his dark silence speaks frightening volumes that words can never match.

“Wait!” Nora calls out. “Let me tell Dorian one last thing before you take him away!”

The men stop at the door and look at Victor first, seeking his permission. Victor nods, and then the men, one on each of Dorian’s arms which are cuffed behind his back, turn him around to face Nora; his knees almost touching the floor.

He raises his head weakly to look at her, pain manipulating his features as it moves through his body.

“That ex-wife of yours is very loyal,” Nora says. “Skittish and a little stupid, but loyal. I was surprised.”

“What do you mean?” Dorian says with a sneer. “She told you about me. I mean I understand—what’d you fucking do to her?”

Nora looks at him in a pitying manner.

“Actually,” she says, her lips turning up at the edges, “she wasn’t the one who told me anything—you were.”

Dorian curses her as the men carry him out, struggling in their grasps. We hear him shouting all the way down the length of the hallway until his curses are shut off by the elevator doors.

Nora looks back at us, seemingly helpless in her bonds, but always the most confident one in the room, despite them. I despise this bitch. I want to be the one—like everybody else I’m sure—who kills her when this is all over.

“That leaves just you and the Jackal, doesn’t it?” Nora says to Victor. “And time is almost up. Somehow, I don’t see this ending well.”

“If it doesn’t end well for Dina,” I threaten, “it won’t end well for you either.”

She makes a face that says whatever happens, happens, and shrugs her restrained shoulders.

11

Victor

Woodard follows me down a long stretch of brightly-lit hallway toward the cells; the stench of his thick cologne suffocating the space around us and me within it. The leather soles of his loafers squeak obnoxiously with every heavy step as he tries to keep up. We pass a row of empty cells on the way to the C. This building had once been a juvenile detention center and was perfect for my needs, so I purchased it quickly soon after Izabel and I left New Mexico.

“I don’t know what to say, boss,” Woodard says apologetically beside me, “but there was nothing on Dorian Flynn that I could find. I-I don’t know how that woman could’ve known.”

“She didn’t,” I say as we round the corner. “Nora Kessler is the highest caliber of expert at what she does. You should not feel inept.”

“What exactly is it that she does, sir?”

“A little bit of everything, it appears, but her specialty lies in knowing the foremost weaknesses of the human psyche—love and fear. She’s exceedingly remarkable when it comes to manipulation—a puppet master pulling all of the strings with flawless precision—and just watching her with every one of you I think I’ve come to understand how she plays this game so well.”

We turn another corner and draw nearer the C. A fluorescent light flickers in the ceiling out ahead, casting a patterned shadow upon the walls. Two men stand guard outside Dorian’s cell.

“How does she play it?” Woodard asks slightly out of breath.

“What have you found on the source I sent you to investigate?” I ask, disregarding his inquiry. He will know in time, as will everyone else, but first I want to know more myself—since I did not hear the entire conversation during Izabel’s confession, I cannot be one-hundred-percent sure of my theory.

“Nothing so far, but I’m running a scan on the information you gave me. It might yield results. It’s crazy, but this whole thing is crazy.”

“And what of her blood sample?”

“Well, that’s what I came to find you for,” he says.

I stop in the center of the hall about twenty-feet from the men outside Dorian’s cell and I turn to Woodard.


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