“So you were implanted into Bradshaw’s black market organization, hoping to find information on Vonnegut?” I believe I know the rest of the story, but I must be sure.

“Yes,” Dorian answers. “I tried to get into The Order ten years ago, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t like they were taking applications. It was impenetrable. Elusive. So, I settled for one of the black markets. Much easier to get into, I guess because they’re not as careful with how they do business. Anyone who kills innocent people for money is too blinded by greed to care about risk and reckless choices.”

“And you assumed that because the black markets and The Order were in the same business, that being on the inside of one would eventually lead you to Vonnegut.”

He nods again. “I know it was a stretch, but it was all that I had to go on. Microsoft and Apple are two different entities in the same business, in competition with one another, but they keep up with each other because they have to. Know your competition, right?”—he shrugs, and then winces when he realizes it was not such a good idea considering the state of his shoulders—“but it did pay off somewhat,” he adds. “Look where I am now”—he laughs—“in a fucking cell where some shot-nosed bastard of a teenager jerked off while he did his time, but my boss happens to be a man who was once closer to Vonnegut than any other man I’ve ever known.”

“So then what was this deal from the government?” I ask, purposely evading his accusations.

“A partnership,” he says. “In exchange for all information on Vonnegut and an ongoing hunt for him, the United States would remain deaf and blind to your operations, and in addition, would provide you with all necessary essentials—funds, authorization into top secret files, anything—when working an assignment for us.”

I raise a brow.

“Working for you?” I reiterate with quite a bit of disbelief. “I have no interest in working for anyone other than my clients. I did not leave The Order to become a slave to another employer. I am the employer. And that is how it will remain.”

“Well I didn’t mean it like that,” he says, backtracking, “just that there are some criminals that can’t be caught, people who we need more information on but can’t seem to get. Your Order, Faust, is the kind of organization that can get these things done faster than we can. Sometimes it takes a killer to know a killer, a spy and a thief to know the movements of a spy and a thief. Not to mention Gustavsson—I have to say, I’ve met a lot of interrogators, but I’ve never met one quite like him. But it would be a partnership, we’d be sort of like clients, but with a lot more money and means.”

I glance at the small box window momentarily in thought.

“But just the same,” I say, looking back at Dorian, “I have no interest. Tell me, why Vonnegut exactly? Why is the bounty on his head the highest? And if the government is looking to employ, or work with an organization like mine, why would there be a bounty on his head at all? Why not just seek Vonnegut and his Order for this partnership? His is larger than mine and has been around for a much longer time.”

“Because we have reason to believe that Vonnegut is much more than the leader of an assassination ring,” he begins. “He also deals in weapons and drugs and girls. Dubai. Colombia. Brazil. Venezuela. Mexico. He is everywhere. He has no boundaries. We also believe he sells weapons and information to terrorists.”

“You believe,” I say, “but you have no evidence of this.”

“No,” he answers solemnly, shaking his head. “We have the kind of evidence that’s right there on the cusp of being irrefutable proof, when everything adds up and it all points to him and you know he’s the guy, but it’s just not enough to actually prove it. It’s why we need inside information to connect the dots, to fill in the goddamned holes.”

Dorian winces and adjusts his body on the metal cot, attempting to straighten his back. His top teeth clamp down over his bottom lip and his face hardens in an agonizing display.

“Look,” he says with a heavy sigh, “my intention was never to betray you. None of you. I don’t expect you to believe me after today but I don’t think of myself as just another operative following orders, or a spy—I actually like being here. You all kind of feel like my family. But if you intend to kill me, I’m not going to beg for my life, Faust. I’m not the begging type. But for Tessa, I am asking you to do whatever you can to help her. None of this is her fault.”

I go toward the door.

“The thing is, Flynn,” I say, turning to look back at him, “you have betrayed me by feeding information on my Order to your superiors. As long as you’ve been with us, there is nothing you can say to make me believe that you have not reported what you know about us thus far.”

“I wouldn’t try to tell you I haven’t done that.”

I nod and open the door.

“I’ll get back to you after this other issue is resolved. You will know my decision then.”

“Hey,” he calls out and I stop without turning to look at him, “can I at least get some pain killers?”

I shut the door without a word.



With only about six hours left before the forty-eight are up, I spend most of my time watching Nora from the surveillance room, racking my brain trying to figure out who she is. At least one of us is supposed to know, but so far…nothing.

She sits tied to that chair; her legs and ankles and torso wrapped many times and pulled so tight she can hardly move; her forearms and wrists are bound to the metal arms, in addition to the chains and cuffs. But despite all that, she doesn’t look uncomfortable. It’s like she’s no stranger to this; either that or she has so much patience and discipline that she can tolerate it.

I hate her. I hate her for what she’s done to Dina. To Woodard’s daughters. And still, even though it looks like Dorian is a traitor, I hate what she’s done to his ex-wife. I hate her for making me tell her the darkest secret I’ve ever kept.

But what I don’t understand is how I can also envy her.

Nora Kessler is who I’ve been striving to become since I met Victor and chose this life with him—strong, intelligent, skilled, confident, but most of all…taken seriously. She’s a fucking master and I’m a novice. If she were much older than me, in her thirties or forties maybe, I wouldn’t feel so amateur compared to her, but she can’t have but a few years on me. How in the hell can she be so experienced?

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