Taking a deep breath, I press my hip against the push-handle and open the door. The handle pops and cracks, just like I remember it when I was in Jr. High school, and I wince. When I believe I’m still in the clear, I begin to move farther into the room, crouched low as I move down the center aisle. The carpet smells like fifty years’ worth of dirt and mildew. The air is dry but cool, and getting cooler as November approaches, and it too stinks of old, abandoned building and weather damage.
I stop cold in my tracks and adjust my eyes in the semi-dark. There is movement below; what looks like a figure is sitting in one of the seats on the second row close to the stage. I drop closer to the floor, my finger ready to pull the trigger if I have to, and I watch for any more signs of movement, hoping my eyes were only playing tricks on me in the darkness.
A foot sways back and forth, propped on the back of the chair in front of what I’m definitely certain of now is a figure.
A loud bang resonates through the auditorium, and then another, and I see Niklas and Dorian entering from two different sides below, both with their guns raised and pointed right at the figure.
“Put your fucking hands up! Put your fucking hands up now!” Niklas shouts as he rushes the figure, his voice echoing throughout the room.
I duck down behind a row of seats and stay out of the way for now, just in case there are others, and I need to come in later from behind.
“Where’s Tessa!” Dorian screams at the figure and it looks like he’s shoved the barrel of his gun into the side of the figure’s head. “I’ll splatter your brains across the fucking seats if you’ve hurt her! Where is she?!” he roars.
“Back off, Dorian,” I hear Victor’s voice carry over the auditorium and then see his figure walking across the stage, the sound of his dress shoes tapping against the wood floor.
I look up and all around me for any signs of movement, or shadows moving along the walls, but still there’s nothing. Could this person have come alone? I’m not buying it and I doubt Victor is, either. We didn’t even come alone; there are four other men outside on the rooftops who scouted the outside before we made our first move around the back of the building. But they found nothing either. No signs of anyone lurking about the buildings, or on any rooftops waiting to get us in the sights of their sniper scopes.
The figure stands from the seat, and I see long white-blonde hair tumble against her back. Her hands are raised out at her sides and although I can barely make out what she looks like from behind, I get the distinct feeling that there’s a smile or a smirk dancing at the corners of her mouth.
Finally, I push myself back into a stand and step out into the aisle. Niklas is the only one who looks up as I make my way down. Dorian won’t take his enraged eyes—or his gun—off the woman.
Finally, Victor looks at me. He nods his approval.
In a flash, the woman braces her hands on the backs of two chairs and her slim body lifts into the air, her feet swinging around in one swift sweep, her boot making contact with Dorian’s gun, sending it flying. A half a second later, her other boot makes contact with his face, a nauseating crunch ripples through the air as Dorian goes down. A single shot goes off with a vociferous bang and a flash of light dies in front of Niklas, but his gun too is sent flying. The woman leaps over the back of the seat and lands in the center aisle, crouched perfectly. The second she stands eye-level, Niklas rounds on her with an upper-cut. She falls backward into the seats on the other side of the aisle.
I run toward them, holstering my gun and pulling my knife from my boot, hungry to use it on this bitch.
Blonde hair whips behind her figure as she leaps from between the seats, propping her hands on the backs again to give her balance. She kicks out at Niklas. Once. Twice. The third time her black boot plants dead center in his chest and sends him falling backward into the aisle. She pounces on top of him and swings her fists at his head, but Dorian grabs her from behind and pulls her off. Niklas springs back to his feet, just as the woman rams the back of her head into Dorian’s face behind her, instantly setting her free from his hold. Her long leg juts out and she buries her foot into Niklas’ gut, and just as quickly, she rounds on Dorian again and punches him square in the face; blood that looks black in the semi-dark springs from his nose.
I jump into the scene, crouching low against the floor and sweeping my foot outward to take her off of hers. She falls backward, her blonde head hitting an armrest on the way down. I fling myself on top of her and go to put my knife to her throat but she blocks my hand with her arm, knocking it from my grasp. I get a few blows in; my knuckles come up bloody after the third time I hit her in the nose, but suddenly I’m choking when her legs lock around my throat from behind and my body falls backward against the floor.
With our roles reversed, the pain of her fist cracking against the bones in my face makes my vision fuzzy and my senses dizzy. I do the only thing I can do and reach up with both hands, grabbing fistfuls of silky hair and I pull like I’m going to rip it all out, until we’re both struggling on the floor. Hair-pulling is for bitches, except when it’s the only option.
She punches me. I punch her back.
“Where is Dina!”
She laughs and jumps to her feet, but then she falls back down when Dorian grabs a hold of one arm and twists it around behind her. He pounces on her, jabbing a knee into the small of her back.
She laughs again, her voice garbled by the blood pooling in her mouth.
Niklas strips off his belt and wraps it around her wrists bound behind her, pulling as tight as it will go, surely cutting off the blood circulation.
They both yank her to her feet, a hand around each elbow.
I step around in front of her, looking her in the eyes for the first time. Her hair is stained by blood around her mouth and disheveled around her oval-shaped face. The smile she wears is spiteful and excited, as if this entire scenario that just played out got her off in some sick way.
I draw back my fist and slam it down against her face again. Her head jerks back briefly, and when she shakes off the stun, the smile returns and a look of challenge remains ever-present in her face.
Niklas holds onto her tightly. Dorian stands off to the side. I know he wants to kill her as much as I do.
“If I die,” she says, taunting me, “that old bitch bites it right along with me.”
I lunge at her, swinging my fists, screaming into her face, until Victor’s arms grab me from behind and pull me off of her.
“Where is she?!” I bellow. “What did you do to her?!”