Home > Behind the Hands That Kill (In the Company of Killers #6)(5)

Behind the Hands That Kill (In the Company of Killers #6)(5)
Author: J.A. Redmerski

Present day – I think…

My fingers are finally starting to move again; the blur is beginning to clear away from my eyes, but little good it does when the people who kidnapped us are wearing black masks over their faces. And despite the minimal movement in my hands, I am in a small cell with iron bars, and without a key or a lock pick, I can do nothing to free myself.

The stone floor is warm and moist against my bare back; I am wearing no shoes. The air is humid and reeks of mildew. Wet straw. Remnants of animal feces and urine. It smells like a farm or a zoo or a circus, which leads me to wonder what kind of animal was in this cage before me, if it died in here, and if I will be treated with the same cruelty.

Izabel. Where is she?

I struggle to move my eyes in search of her; I still cannot lift my head. I feel myself straining—every part of me—but the effort produces no results. The drug is taking too long to wear off; I feel trapped in my own skin, and I would rather be dead than to feel like this.

I close my eyes and sleep—sleep always speeds up time.

I wake to a scraping sound, and the distant clatter of voices. Arguing. Cursing. But the people are not in the same room; I think they are behind a door, somewhere to my left. I can feel my toes now. I can move my legs, my hands, my head—but I refrain; as much as I want to get up from this filthy stone floor, or at least raise my head to look for Izabel, I remain still. Because although I cannot see him, although I have only ever heard two distinct voices since the hotel room in Caracas, I know there is a third person. A man. I saw the masked figures look at him on two separate occasions, giving away his authoritative presence. I can sense him watching me now, I can feel his eyes on me; I can smell his cologne, his sweat—he is close, right behind me, sitting in the dark on a metal chair on the other side of the bars. I had heard the chair legs scraping lightly against the floor moments ago. It was the sound that initially woke me.

“Fifteen years,” the man says, breaking the silence, “seems like a long time, doesn’t it, Victor?”

I hear him get up from the chair, I can hear his footsteps moving slowly over the stones, but he stays behind me in the shadows. I hear the snap of a lighter, and seconds later the potent smell of cigar smoke reaches my nostrils. I am thankful for it; it suffocates the stench of animal.

There is no reason to pretend any longer—he knows that I am awake.

“Kidnapping does not suit you, Apollo,” I say; my bones feel like they have not been used in days as I struggle into a sitting position.

Apollo’s laughter is as deep and suave as his voice; he puffs on the cigar, taking his time.

“And stupidity doesn’t suit you, Victor—you know why you’re here.”

Yes, I do—revenge for what I did fifteen years ago. Not to mention the substantial bounty on my head.

I push myself into a stand with difficulty, my legs still do not feel like a part of me; my breath is heavy and uneven; my head spins. I reach out and grab the vertical iron bars to steady myself, shaking off the remnants of the drug, but it clings to the back of my eyes and the crevices of my brain like spider webs.

“So how much did they tell you my head is worth?” I’m looking down at my bare feet; yellow straw helps to cushion them against the floor.

“Oh, now let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Apollo scolds, playfully. “I’d like to get the questions about that girl of yours out of the way first.”

“What questions?” I ask, pretending.

Apollo laughs; the darkness illuminates briefly with a soft orange glow as he takes another puff of his cigar.

“You always were the unpredictable type,” he says, takes another puff. His voice draws closer as he steps out of the shadows and into the light of the moon beaming in through three high windows. “OK, so if you’re gonna pretend you don’t give a shit about her, then I’ll just get to the point.” He steps up to the bars—I could reach him if I wanted, but if I do anything stupid, Izabel will pay the price.

Apollo smiles craftily amid his dark skin; smoke floats in a cloud around his head. Dark eyes stare back at me with a sort of sick delight—it looks very much like revenge, despite his claims. Short black hair. Sharp cheekbones. Perfect skin. He looks so much like her—Artemis, his twin sister. It bothers me a half a second longer than I like.

“By all means,” I tell him, urging him to ‘get to the point’. But then I try to do it for him. “Let me guess,” I begin. “You want something from me first. Information. Money. Something you cannot get from Vonnegut. And if I do not give it to you, Izabel will die.” I look him straight in the eyes. “Is that about right?”

He smiles.

“Not necessarily,” he answers, and I detect the satisfaction in his voice—it is not often that I am wrong about these things, and he is enjoying the rare moment.

Apollo drops the cigar on the floor and crushes it with an expensive black dress shoe.

“You really are slipping, Faust,” he says, shaking his head. “It amazes me—never thought I’d see the day; the legendary Victor Faust, Golden Boy of The Order, one of the most dangerous men alive”—he chuckles, shaking his head again—“and now look at you”—he points at me in a disgusted fashion—“in a cage, like an animal, and it all started with that girl back in Mexico.” He turns his back to me and walks away from the cage. “Now I don’t know too many details about when you went rogue from The Order; I don’t even know if the shit that I heard is true: about how you helped that girl and risked your life for her—hell, I even heard you almost killed your brother to protect her.” He turns to face me, something dark and serious in his eyes. “That’s fucked up, bro. You know that saying about blood being thicker than water? It’s true. Family comes first.” He should know—Apollo was betrayed by his own flesh-and-blood brother, Osiris. He is still bitter about it, I see.

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