Fredrik says nothing.

I slide back into my chair more comfortably and turn to Victor.

“Do you want me to go talk to him?” I ask. “Try to bring him back here so you can talk to him?”

Victor shakes his head.

“We’ll discuss Niklas later,” he says. “First, I have something else that needs to be addressed.”

Victor and Nora exchange a glance, giving off the impression that they’re the only two at the table who have already talked about it, whatever it is. I feel incredibly uncomfortable all of a sudden, but curious and eager, as well.

“What is it?” I ask.

Victor takes a deep breath and looks out at all of us. “There will be an important mission in the near future,” he says cryptically and his eyes fall on me, “not within the next year, but because it will take you at least that long to prepare for it—or rather to prepare Nora for it.” He glances at her briefly.

“OK,” I say, leery, “what kind of mission?”

He sits quietly for a moment and then says, “I need you to go back to Mexico.”

Confused, I reply, “Why Mexico?” But what’s so confusing is how obscure he’s being. “I have no problem going there, Victor. You give me a mission and I’ll carry it out. Mexico doesn’t scare me.” We’ve already gone back there once. We took out two of Javier’s brothers and freed some of the girls left in the compound. The mission didn’t turn out like I’d hoped and many of the girls I had once lived with when I was a prisoner there, had either already been sold, or killed by the time we arrived.

He looks away from my eyes momentarily.

“Victor, what is it? Just say it.”

Once again, I feel everyone’s eyes on me, even Fredrik’s this time, but I look at no one other than Victor.

“This mission will require something more than killing someone and coming back,” he begins. “For the next several months you’ll be training Nora for it.”

My eyebrows crease rigidly.

“Me training her?” It starts to dawn on me, what this whole mission will be about, but I let Victor fill in the gaps.

“You were on the inside,” he says to me, “and you know how things work. Everything. From the buying and selling of drugs, weapons and girls, to the way the girls were treated, to how they were killed. Nora can certainly handle any kind of mission given to her, but even she needs to be trained so she knows exactly what she’s dealing with.”

I look right at Nora, who sits quietly, but with confidence. “Wait a second,” I cut in, “so you’re saying you want me to train her to be a sex slave?” Somehow I can’t fit that image in my head no matter how I try.

James’ face lights up with creepy delight.

“Not necessarily,” Victor says. “I’ve talked to her at length about this and we both agree that the best way to approach that particular aspect of it is for her to become one of the girls, not just play the part.

“It’s best to become one of them,” Nora says, “if I fall into it like everyone else; not taught how to be one of them.”

Growing more confused, I look between Victor and Nora, searching for answers.

“I’m capable of taking on any role, even a sex slave, but you’ll need to give me pointers, tell me about the behind-the-scenes, what to be most aware of, how not to get myself killed.”

I shake my head, already not liking this idea.

“Victor, I imagine things aren’t the same there anymore. Javier is dead. Izel is dead. His brothers are dead.”

“They may be,” he says, “but that doesn’t mean things have changed much. Javier had six brothers that we know of. Two of them are still running his operations. The compound is still in the same place. Girls and drugs and weapons are still bought and sold as if nothing ever happened. Within two months of our last mission there, they were up and running again.”

I knew most of this information already, but I see why now he had to repeat it.

Shaking my head with a whitewashed look, I lean forward with my arms on the table.

“OK, but why? Why go back? Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem killing those bastards and freeing more of the girls, but—”

“That’s not the mission, Izabel,” Victor says.

I blink, a little stunned.

Nora and Victor exchange another knowing glance.

Then Victor says, “Nora told me something, the last night she was detained in that room, before she joined us. Something about you that I wanted to be more certain of before I said anything.”

I just look at him, feeling the sting of betrayal, even though I know he didn’t betray me at all.

Victor goes on:

“Also, after speaking with Dorian when he was first detained, Nora’s story seemed to hold more truth.” After a pause he says, “The mission to Mexico will be to figure out who Vonnegut is. You may be the only person among us who has ever seen the real Vonnegut.”

“What?” I can’t believe what I just heard.

He nods, and then starts to speak, but I interrupt.

“You’ve seen him,” I point out. “What are you talking about, Victor?”

“The man who I met with on rare occasion when I was part of The Order,” he begins, “who I was valued by as an operative, I have reason to believe was not the real Vonnegut. He was a decoy. The truth is that no one really knows who the real man is behind the oldest and largest assassination organization still running today. Not even the CIA or the FBI—no one. Just when they think they have an identity, they find that they’re just running in circles.”

Victor fills me in on everything Dorian told him, about Vonnegut’s suspected dealings with selling weapons to terrorists and that his business deals in so much more than contract killing. He goes on to tell me about the things Nora told him in secret, and about the tracking device that Victor cut out of me when I was on the run with him.

“Niklas and I knew,” Victor says, “the night I took that device out of you, that something that high-tech had to come from an outside source, that there was no way someone like Javier Ruiz would be able to produce it himself.”

“While I was spying on all of you,” Nora cuts in, “and delving into The Order’s information, I found out that Vonnegut was dealing in girls, too, and was selling high-tech tracking devices like the one they found in you.”

Victor adds, “I believe the device that was placed in you came from Vonnegut. I think Vonnegut was selling to Javier, and you were right there on the inside, closer to Vonnegut than just about anyone has ever been.”

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