“This is unexpected.” Victor began to pace, each step hurried. “It makes sense now, why she attacked us that night. It wasn’t a coincidence. She came for you. Here we were thinking that you were capitalising on chance.”
“Well,” Mike shrugged, “she was returning a favour.”
“You helped her escape?” Victor threw his head back and laughed. “Here we were thinking she was so difficult to contain. Well, that wraps things up neatly. Since you’re both here together, I don’t need to worry all that much do I?”
Mike didn’t reply. There wasn’t much to say. I worked at the bindings on my wrists, testing the strength of the plastic bands. The more I twisted and forced my wrists apart the more it cut into my flesh, giving no indication of giving way.
Victor spoke again, with a glance at me. “All this time she’s been following you?”
“I wouldn’t say that exactly, but it’s immaterial. It all turned out to your advantage in the end didn’t it? She’s done you a service. How about we call this quits, and we all walk away?” Mike’s hands weren’t tied, maybe he could flip the table, get me free. We’d have a chance at least?
Another laugh. “You know, I was hoping to work something out here. Come to some kind of arrangement. But this? My own brother betraying me like this? I can’t forgive it, it’ll look bad.”
“Looks like a family pastime to me,” I said before my brain could censor the words coming out of my mouth. My voice croaked, I coughed to clear my throat and looked up to find them both staring at me with disturbingly similar expressions. “What? It’s true. You,” I nodded to Victor, “were busy trying to fuck over Mike while you were both vouching to take over your father after he’d managed to claw power from under your grandfather. I don’t see why you’re all so surprised about it.”
Neither were used to being spoken to like that it seemed.
“You know what, you’re right. This blood is poison,” Victor said. “Poison for itself at least. You’re giving me all the more reason for the simplest solution. I end it here.”
“What the hell, Alex?” Mike hissed at me. I shrugged, it wasn’t like I was making the situation any worse. He faced his brother, “Ignore her. She’s talking nonsense. Vic, remember when we were kids? We were so good together!”
“Is that what you call it? It seems we have some slightly differing memories, Mike.” He resumed pacing.
“Hey, hey. Why do you keep going on about that, it was just a bit of fun.”
“Fun? It-” Victor stopped with a sideways glance at the three of his own men, well, two men and a woman that we shared the room with. Whatever they were referring to, it was above my head, and it was immaterial. Victor had made his decision as soon as he’d set eyes on his brother. There was something there, a spark, that had set our fate.
Mike began to whisper to me again, “This isn’t-”
“Don’t say another word to her.” Victor interrupted, and Mike shut up. I could see the cold fury in his eyes. I’d never seen anyone twist their heel with Mike. “I’m beginning to enjoy this.”
“You aren’t going to do anything, Vic.” The anger didn’t leave Mike’s eyes. His easy tone dropped, leaving a harsh, direct voice. “You never did have any nerve.”
“I grew it, Mike. It’s amazing how much you can change yourself if you put your mind to it. I got fed up taking shit from people like you.”
“Hey, I always treated you-”
“Remember that day…” Victor trailed off.
“I was ten, Vic. It was a long time ago,”
“Shoot her.” I froze. My heart skipped a beat. Okay, I was expecting this from the start. But expecting it and hearing those words were quite different. There was a second’s hesitation as none of the three guards responded. Gib looked terrified of the idea. The woman had no reaction at all.
“I’ll do it. Give me your gun, Danni,” the guy who’d dragged me here. Eager.
“No, let me.” Danni replied. I blinked. She’d seemed the most… human. Maybe it was better that way.
“I don’t care who does it, move!” Victor silenced the debate on who was going to kill me, bringing the event a fraction closer to reality.
The woman stepped forward.
“Come on, Vic,” Mike’s voice raised a fraction, almost pleading. “Let’s not get irrational here.”
“It’s perfectly rational, Mike. An eye for an eye, it makes sense.”
I’d stopped concentrating on the words they were saying, it was all just dissolving into white noise.
Mike’s voice carried through, “This isn’t the same. She’s not-”
“You don’t care for her? Not like I did?” Victor interrupted.
Danni. That’s your name. Is it better to know the name of your killer? She was looking at me, her expression calm, maybe a little nervous? Conflicted?
“It was an accident,” Mike said.
I didn’t see any reason to be nervous. I tried to remember back when I’d first killed, but I wasn’t even sure – I’d never directly meant to cause someone to die. All I’d wanted was to get away, or stop them. Death was a consequence not a goal. This was different.
“It didn’t seem it to me,” Victor.
She was standing in front of me. Close, close enough to hear her breathing. It drowned out Mike arguing with his brother. The world narrowed to just me and her.
Her arm outstretched, muzzle of her gun resting against my forehead as I looked up from my knees, studying her finger for the slightest twitch.
I’d move, just before she pulled the trigger. I’d have a second, maybe two, before she fired again. What could I do with a second?
I should have broken her arm when I had the chance, and that’s the last thought I’ll have.
She leaned forwards a fraction. I felt the warm breeze of her breath. It carried a whisper, barely audible over the noise in the room. “Make this convincing.”
There was an explosion. A flash of pain, light and noise that left my ears ringing.
As the high-pitched world-consuming squeal that filled my ears faded to something less deafening, I could hear Mike’s declaration of: “Shit.”
* * *
It was disorientating. I was pushed back by the… no, I can’t have been shot. I wouldn’t be thinking if I’d been shot. The only logical conclusion was that I hadn’t.
Make it convincing….
“Alex!” Jack shouted, “I’ll kill you mother fucker! I’m gonna rip your fucking-” I felt a thud, the vibrations of a small body hitting the ground. Jack shut up.
Things were beginning to fall into place. I didn’t understand the why, but the idea of death was fresh enough in my mind that I was willing to forget the why in place of the staying the fuck alive. She’d missed, pulled the gun an inch to the side.
I played dead. Eyes closed, I could sense her body between mine and Victor’s. Kneeling? I didn’t dare open my eyes.
“Shit, Beth’s…” I heard Mike’s voice over the hum in my ears, before he directed his anger at his Brother, “Do you think that makes things even?”
“Even? You think this is about getting even?”
“What the hell was the point then?” I’d never heard Mike shout, he usually goes quieter the more serious he gets.
“Don’t bother pretending you care, Mike.” The tension holding my wrists together snapped. My bonds cut. Danni, I like you.
My baton, the table, the lights? All the options I’d discounted. I was in a perfect position. I’d always operated with surprise on my side. But when to make the move? I could hear Jack wheezing for breath but placing everyone around the room was difficult without a visual reference.
“So are you going to kill me now? Your own brother?”
“No, I’m not you, Mike.” Victor sighed. “Lock him in one of the rooms, a secure one. Don’t let him get out this time.”
“What about the other kid?” Gibb’s voice.
“Him?” There was a thud and grunt from the floor, a kick? “I don’t honestly care. Let him go. Kill him. Use him here. He’s no threat. And clean this place up!”
Steps. A slamming door. Silence. Assuming no guards had left with their boss, it left us four against two.
I opened my eyes. It seemed I didn’t have to make the first move, there was a shout of pain. Jack had just shoved the blade of his knife into a man’s leg with a snarl of anger.