“I thought you admired him,” I say, still trembling.

“I do,” he says as he slips a finger behind the neck of his shirt and pulls it away from his skin, “but I never claimed to be able to stomach what he does. I admire him because he’s not afraid of anything. Because everyone I know is afraid of him.”

Nora’s screams make it to my ears out in the hall since the surveillance room door is still open. I clasp my hands against the sides of my head again, wincing.

Niklas appears in the doorway and starts to close it after seeing how much it’s affecting me, but I shake my head and stop him.

“No,” I say, “leave it open. I want hear if she says anything.”

“Are you sure, Iz?”

“Yeah,” I nod in a rapid, uneasy motion. “I’ll be fine.”

He shakes his head with a sigh as if he doesn’t really believe me, and then goes back inside to watch with Victor.

Thirty minutes later I’m sitting on the floor in the hallway with my back pressed to the wall and my knees drawn up.

And Nora still hasn’t answered a single question.

I’m starting to fear for her. I may want her to die, but I wouldn’t want to die like that and I just wish she’d talk. Say something to ease her pain and mine.

“What’s he doing?” I hear Niklas say with curiosity.

Hesitantly, I get up from the floor, and with a bit of talking myself into it, I go into the room to look at the screen.

Fredrik has cut her out of her bonds and unlocked the cuffs from her ankles and wrists.

“I won’t tell you anything,” Nora says in a pain-filled, raspy voice as he forces her to stand on her feet.

She doesn’t struggle or even try to get away, but I think the pain she’s coping with has a lot to do with it.

“Faust tells me you’re a daughter of the SC-4,” Fredrik says, as calmly as ever. He strips off her black silk shirt and walks her over to the wall. She doesn’t struggle when he presses her against it. “Raise your arms,” he says, and she does.

Her hands are stained with blood, the tips of her fingers swollen and red. Her body shakes pressed against the wall from the front. But still, she doesn’t relent. She’s in undeniable pain and I know she wants to end it, but she doesn’t break.

My god…her back…what did they do to her?

Nora’s back is covered in deep scars, crisscrossing in a horrific pattern from one shoulder to the other and from the top of her spine to the top of her hips. Old scars. Made by a whip of sorts, or maybe even a blade—from the looks of them, probably both.

Fredrik slips a knife underneath her bra straps and cuts them off. The black bra falls to the floor, leaving her exposed.

“It was a question,” Fredrik says from behind her. “Are you a member of the Shadow Sect?”

Fucking answer him! I scream inside my head. Please, Nora!

I don’t know why I care, but I do.

Answer him!

“Yes,” Nora says. “My father was Solis.”

“And where is Solis now?”

“I killed him.”

So that’s who she killed for her freedom. That’s who she wouldn’t tell Victor about.

Victor and Niklas glance at each other.

“Is she talking?” James asks as he decides to join us again.

“Yes,” Victor says, staring at the screen, “but she’s only telling him things she wants us to know.”

I look at Victor, as hard as it is to tear my eyes away from the screen.

“What are you saying?” I ask.

“I don’t think he’s going to be able to break her,” Victor says. “She’ll tell him some things, just to ease her pain, but she’s not going to tell him anything crucial to why she came here.”

“Maybe you’re wrong,” I say.

“I could very well be, Izabel,” he says, finally looking over at me. “I hope that I am.”

He looks back at the screen.

It takes me a second longer, but finally I do too.

“And why are you here?” Fredrik asks Nora.

She doesn’t answer and so he starts to cut, opening a fresh wound on her already disfigured back flesh.

My hands are trembling.

“How did you know about Izabel Seyfried?”

She cries out in pain, tears streaming from her eyes.

“I didn’t!” she says, shocking me into submission. “I knew some things about her. I knew enough! I found out what everyone else knows. About her being a sex slave in Mexico. About Javier. And I put a logical scenario together based on her circumstances. I didn’t know her secret. I didn’t know until she told me herself! Just like with Dorian Flynn!”

I can’t move. I can’t breathe. It takes me a long time to raise my focused gaze from the screen to look at Victor and Niklas.

“She didn’t know,” I say absently, more to myself than to them. “How…how did she—.”

“She really is good,” James says.

“And what of Niklas Fleischer?” Fredrik inquires, pressing the blade of his knife to her back but not cutting it. “How did you know about Niklas and Claire?”

“The same way I knew about Izabel and Dorian!” she shouts. “I did my research. I had six years to follow all of you. Six years to plot this very night!”

“Did you tell Fredrik these things?” I ask Victor. It dawns on me that for Fredrik to know about any of this, for him to be able to ask these specific questions, that he must’ve talked to one of us.

“Fredrik has been on his way here since yesterday,” Victor answers. “I didn’t know until tonight. He was in Sweden. When he arrived at the airport here, he called me and I filled him in.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because you wanted to be left alone.”

“And because you couldn’t be found,” Niklas chimes in. “I tried calling you, until your phone vibrated on the table next to me.”

I look back at the screen.

“Why are you here, Nora Kessler?” Fredrik asks. “And where is the location of Dina Gregory and Tessa Flynn?”

She doesn’t answer.

He cuts her again, and although the act itself is enough to bring Nora to her knees, what strikes me the most is that she doesn’t move. Nora is unbound. Nothing is keeping her from fighting back, from rounding on Fredrik and taking that knife from him to protect herself. Yet, she does nothing. She willingly stands against that wall with her arms raised above her, and is letting Fredrik torture her. I know she can fight. She would very likely give Fredrik a tough time. She did all of us. She proved she has enough skill to fight back and keep Fredrik from hurting her. But she doesn’t move.

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