Home > Behind the Hands That Kill (In the Company of Killers #6)(11)

Behind the Hands That Kill (In the Company of Killers #6)(11)
Author: J.A. Redmerski

“Because I have no reason to kill you,” I said. “And because…I care about you—now tell me, Marina, what is going on? Why is your life in danger? And if you thought I would kill you for asking for my help, then why did you ask?”

“Because I’m desperate, Victor, and because the only way I’ll know is by asking. It’s a risk, I know, but a risk I’m willing to take because I have no other choice. No other way out except through you.”

“Why me, Marina?”

She paused, swallowed nervously, and said, “Because you’re the only one I trust.”

She came toward me then, just a few steps, but stopped short of being in reaching distance. She looked me deeply in the eyes, held desperately onto my gaze. “Because I believed in my heart that you cared for me, on some level—I just felt it. It’s why I asked first how you felt about me. Look, I don’t have much time.”

Now I was the one looking in different directions, feeling paranoid about having unwelcome eyes at my back.

“Marina,” I said calmly, but in a serious manner, “I need you to sit down and tell me what this is all about.” I took another step toward her. “Please. Sit with me and talk.”

It took her a moment, but finally she relented. I reached out my hand to her and reluctantly she took it.

We sat down on the edge of the bed together. I held her hand.

She looked over at me.

“You know my past,” she began. “I was honest with you when I told you I used to be an exotic dancer. But I didn’t tell you the truth about how I ended up here, sharing my home with strangers who I know nothing about other than every one of you carry guns and probably have killed a few people. I know only what I see, and believe only what I can assume is the truth. But I need to tell you the truth about how I got myself into this—it wasn’t like I told you: there was no mutual agreement—they threatened me, The Order.”

I thought I knew the answer before Marina told me. I knew about Safe Houses and the men and women who occupied them, about how they were mostly civilians who knew little to nothing about what the people, like myself, who sometimes stayed in them, did for a living. But it was with Marina that I began to see the truth about how some Safe House residents were recruited: more with blackmail and threats than with willingness, and substantial financial offers.

“A man came into my club one night,” she began, “and he came with a lot of money. A lot of money, Victor—for a private dance he paid me more than I’d ever see in a lifetime.” Marina lowered her head in shame. “I started sleeping with him—for the money, of course. I’d never done anything like that before; sure I danced for money, but I’d never degraded myself like that.” She paused, took a deep breath as if to release the memory by way of her lungs, and went on.

I sat and listened, and with every word, I wanted to help her that much more.

“After two weeks,” she continued, not looking at me, “the man—he said his name was Brant—well, he started to change, became more aggressive with me, even slapped me around. But I wanted that money; I probably would’ve let him beat the hell out of me as long as I kept seeing that money.”

“What did this ‘Brant’ do?” I knew that was not his real name as much as she did.

Marina glanced over, but could not look at me for long; she began to nervously move her fingers about within her lap. I reached over and moved her hair away from her shoulder so I could see all of her face.

“He came to my house one night,” she said, “and told me that my life was no longer mine, that from that night forward it belonged to him. Of course, at first I just thought he was an obsessed maniac—I had a few guys come into the club who I had problems with; one even stalked me for a while before he pissed somebody off and got himself shot—but Brant, I found out real quick that there was something different about him, and that he was much worse than any of those guys.” Her breathing began to quicken, and she stared straight out ahead without blinking. “He reached into his briefcase and took out a few pictures. My mother watering her plants. My little sister in California walking to her dorm.” She looked at me again, and this time held her gaze firmly. “They were the only family I had.”

“Had?” I asked, thinking the worst.

Marina nodded. “My mother died last year—cervical cancer. My sister is still alive, but…”

She looked away again, down at her hands, her trembling fingers interlaced.

“But what, Marina?” I rested my palm on her back; her skin was warm. “Tell me.”

She swallowed, hesitated, and then worked up the courage.

“I’ve been talking to her—in private, of course—and I told her, in a way that no one but she would understand, that her life is in danger. We made plans to go on…vacation, if you know what I mean, but really we just want to leave the country. Go somewhere they can’t find us, and start all over”—she turned to face me fully, took my hands into hers and squeezed—“and I know you can help us start over, Victor. New identities, all of that stuff.”

I shook my head, looked away.

“Marina,” I said, “we cannot be having this conversation; if they find out—”

“They won’t.”

I knew that was not true—they already knew.

She jumped off the bed and crouched in front of me, cupped my cheeks in her hands. I could not help but look into her eyes and let her speak; I could not help but listen to her pleas and continue to fall deeper and deeper into a hole that my subconscious mind knew I would never be able to crawl out of. Because I did truly care for Marina. I spent months visiting her. She was easy to talk to, and she understood my struggles without having to know exactly what they were; she gave me advice, knew all the right things to say, and I never told her anything about what I did. Marina was to me more than just my friend—she was my lover, my conscience, and my only link to the outside world in which I craved. I was not in love with her, but I wanted to be, and I was not ready to give up the relief and excitement and anticipation I felt when I knew I was going to see her again.

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