I shoot Niklas with a hateful glare. He brushes it off.
He’s right though; it’s important that we know those things. Extremely important. But I still can’t convince myself that this is a good idea. It’s cutting it too close. Nora said that all of us had to be in the same room when whoever she came here for realizes why, and would have to confess in front of everyone. First Fredrik still hasn’t shown, then Dorian gets thrown in a cell, and now Woodard is leaving? I think I’m going to be sick.
“I will go in and talk with Nora next,” Victor says looking at me, trying to ease my mind. “I won’t wait until Woodard returns, but I’ll have to buy as much time as I can in there with her to give Woodard enough time to send me the information he obtains. I may be able to use it against her as well.”
Sighing deeply and spearing all ten fingers through the top of my hair, I stare at Nora in the screen for a moment.
“OK,” I give in. I drop my arms back at my sides and march over to stand in front of Woodard. “You listen to me James,” I demand, pointing my finger at him. “When you go into that station you need to play the part—you had no idea they’d been abducted, but you’re frantic and worried and you don’t even hear anyone else other than your daughters at first because you’re too busy hugging them, and looking them over for signs of abuse, and asking them if they’re OK. You’re distraught, James, do you understand?”
He nods briskly several times.
“One hour,” I go on, pointing my finger upward. “Don’t spend any more time in there than that. Say you want to take your daughters home. Tell them no more questions today. They need to rest. They’ve been through a traumatic experience. OK?”
He nods again.
“Get them out of that police station,” I say, “take them to a hotel somewhere and use one of your other identities to check them in. Then you come straight back here. Got it?”
“Yes, ma’am, I-I got it.”
“Do not ever fucking call me ma’am.” I feel flames coming out of my eyes.
I grab my phone from the table in front of the screens where I had been sitting earlier, punch in a number and put the phone to my ear.
“Take two cars and follow James Woodard to the police station,” I order one of our men stationed on the bottom floor of the building. “Stay out of sight, but watch his back going in and coming out. Then follow him to the hotel afterwards and watch over the room he leaves his daughters in.”
I hang up to three sets of eyes focused on me.
“What?” I ask, confused by their silence and stares.
Niklas laughs and shakes his head but says nothing. Victor’s lips turn up vaguely at one corner. Woodard has too much on his mind and just looks eager to leave.
“What are you still standing there for?” I ask Woodard, raising both of my hands, palms-up; my eyes hard and concentrating.
Woodard hurries out the door without another word.
Izabel stops me at the surveillance room door.
“I’m going to try getting in touch with Fredrik one more time,” she says. “I swear Victor, if Dina dies because of him—.”
I touch the side of her face with my fingertips.
“That will not happen,” I tell her, kiss her on the edge of her mouth and leave.
I never would have gone in first. Or second. Or third. And up until this point I intended to go last. When given the opportunity, I learn everything I can about my enemy before I approach them. Or take them out. Woodard was an easy target for someone like Nora. Izabel is too blinded by anger and vengeance to have the kind of patience that I have. Dorian and my brother are both quicker to act than I feel is appropriate—it is in their nature. And Gustavsson—if Nora Kessler can stay alive to meet him face to face—will tell her nothing. It will be the other way around.
Izabel may have to face the death of the woman she loves like a mother.
After punching the code on the door panel, I lock myself inside with a rarity. People like Kessler are not necessarily rare in numbers, only in exposure. To have one like her bound inside a locked room is extraordinary enough, but to have one indirectly admitting who and what she is, is unheard of. If what she told Izabel is true, I believe she will willingly tell me even more. The real question is why.
“Ah, finally the boss-man himself,” Kessler says with a smile that might otherwise be intimidating if I could be intimidated by her. “I wondered if you’d come at all.”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
Placing a hand on the back of the empty chair, I pull it from the table and have a seat, propping my right foot on my left knee. I tug casually on the cuffs of my dress shirt with my fingers, and then place my hands within my lap.
She shrugs. “Oh, I don’t know,” she says, letting her eyes drift upward in a bored fashion, “because you’re more intelligent than the rest of them, I suppose.”
“Just more thorough,” I say.
She smiles, though it shows more in her eyes than on her lips. “No, I’m pretty sure I’m right. Because, you see, you’re not that much different from me, Faust. You did exactly what I would’ve done—scoped the building out before barging inside blindly.”
I say nothing.
“So, you’ve come to confess,” she says. She stretches and curls her fingers against the arms of the chair to relieve some of her discomfort.
“Eventually,” I say. “But first we’re going to talk about you.”
“Oh, we are, are we?” She grins; the light from the ceiling reflecting in the brown of her eyes. “Maybe you forget that this is my game, not yours. You play by my rules.”
“I will play within the boundaries of your rules,” I say, “until those boundaries become a problem, and then I will cross them.” I drop my foot on the floor and lean forward, interlocking my fingers with my hands draped between my knees. “Perhaps you forget that you are the one in the chair.”
“I’ve already told you,” she says, losing confidence and replacing it with frustration, “I’m not afraid to die.”
I lean back again and cross one leg over the other, smoothing out invisible wrinkles in the leg of my black pants, taking my time.
“Why don’t you tell me, Nora Kessler, why someone from the Shadow Sect would be here in my organization, playing games based on a personal vendetta.” I look away from my pants and up at her. “SC-4 operatives have no personal vendettas because they have no personal lives or possessions or burdens…unless of course one was…compromised.” I glance briefly at her marred pinky finger. “Tell me—what other parts of your body did your father, Solis, mutilate when he found out that you had been compromised?”