Billy and I sit huddled in someone’s yard behind the moss green electric box, frozen, but not because of the mountain of snow piled around us or the blistering cold. Neither one of us can believe what just happened. It’s been only four hours since we set up watch outside of Anastasia’s house and, while we knew Lincoln was getting irritated that we hadn’t gotten access to her laptop yet, I could have never believed he’d take it this far. Now we’re staring nervously at the hole in the side of the house and I feel as though I’m waiting for flames or some kind of explosion. What if he dies? What if he hit Anastasia, or Sawyer, or Kavanagh and one of them dies? I was told she would suffer, that she would lose Grey and that she would finally get to feel some of the pain she has put me through. I didn’t sign up for this.
“Fuck it’s cold,” Billy says, shuddering next to me. “If he doesn’t get them out of the house in the next twenty minutes, we’ve got to get out of here. We’re not going to make it long out here without my car.”
“Is that seriously what you’re worried about right now?” I hiss.
“Leila.” The voice crackles as it comes through the satellite radio in my hand, and for the first time I feel a real sense of foreboding when I hear it. With a calming breath I push a frozen finger down on the intercom button and bring the speaker up to my mouth.
“H-he’s in,” I stutter through my chattering teeth. “N-no sign of A-ana-st-tasia yet.”
“Get. Me. That. Laptop,” he says firmly.
“We will.” There’s no response so I let the radio fall to my side again and then try to wrap my coat tighter around me.
“I think it actua-lly might be t-too cold to snow,” Billy says after a long few minutes of silence. “Everything is just f-freezing now, including us. We should go.”
I look up at the blanket of clouds above us, which are still shocking white even in the shroud of night. This storm isn’t over yet, it’s only just starting.
“They can’t st-tay in there forever. There’s no power, they don’t-t have heat, and the house isn’t going to prot-tect them anymore. They have to leave soon.”
“Then we’ll come back.” He grabs my arm and pulls me up, but just as we stand we see a dark figure trudging through the snow towards Anastasia’s house.
“Get down,” I hiss.
We both throw ourselves to the ground and it’s actually painful when my hands sink down into the wet snow. It’s too cold. I think I might be going into some kind of shock.
“Jesus Christ, who the fuck is out walking right now?”
I glare at him. “We just drove a car into the side of a house. It’s probably a neighbor checking to see if they’re okay.”
Billy puts an arm over me and pulls me into his side, trying to huddle up as close to me as possible so we can keep warm, but it’s no use. I’m not sure what the temperature is but it has to be single digits at this point, and with our jeans in the snow and our fingers exposed to the cold, biting air, our teeth start chattering so loudly I’m afraid Sawyer will hear it from inside the house half a block away.
“I’m getting impatient,” Lincoln’s voice says through the radio again, but this time it’s Billy who reaches for it and answers.
“We’re going back home. They’re not leaving the house and Leila and I are going to freeze out here. We’ll come back in the morning.”
“In the morning?” Lincoln repeats, and there’s a new dark quality to his voice that seems to make the temperature around us drop a few degrees more. “I can’t do anything with the morning.”
“Wait.” The sound of a door slamming closed echos up the street at us so I risk a peek over the top of the electrical box and see two people huddled together, wading through the snow down the street. Neither Billy or I even dare to breathe and in the dead silence of the snowy night, I can hear the voices of the two women as they make their way back to the house across the street.
“Almost there, Ana. There’s a fire inside.”
“Anastasia is out,” I whisper softly down to Billy, then wait with bated breath for three or four more minutes until Kate and Sawyer come out of the house with Hyun’s unconscious body being carried between them.
“Fuck, is he going to be okay?” Billy asks.
I shake my head. “I don’t know.”
“What’s going on?” the radio crackles again, and both Billy and I cringe. Thankfully though, neither Sawyer nor Kavanagh look our way. They must not be able to hear us over the sounds of their own panting as they struggle with Hyun’s weight and the slippery snow and ice beneath their feet.
“They’re out,” I tell Lincoln once we hear the door to the neighbor’s house close. “They’re in the house across the street.”
“Luggage?” he asks.
“No. They didn’t take anything with them.
“Then go get me that laptop.”
Billy and I look at each other, he switches the radio off, puts it in my backpack, and finally moves out from behind the electric box. I follow him as quietly and swiftly as possible, worrying the entire way that we’re going to be caught. This is so stupid, even with the street lamps off from the power outage, the snow is so bright beneath us that our dark clothes make us easier to spot, not harder. With every sound we hear crossing the street and jumping the fence into Anastasia’s backyard, I’m certain we’re going to be caught.
We aren’t though. Billy helps me over the fence and then there’s nothing in front of us except the tall dark house which conceals us from the street.
“Stay in my footprints,” he warns me. “We’re going to have to cover them up before we leave.”
It’s slow going and extraordinarily difficult to move as carefully as we need to through the deep snow. Each step we take is meticulously calculated, and just as much as he has to reach back to help me while I place my foot in the hole he’s left behind, I have to help him move forward. By the time we get to the back door, we’re both sweating beneath our coats.
“Moment of truth,” he says, and then reaches out for the handle on the sliding glass door. Amazingly, it opens easily. They forgot to lock it between the chaos of the storm and Hyun’s diversion.
“Well that’s good luck,” Billy says with a smile. I narrow my eyes at him.
“As if we couldn’t get in through the giant gaping hole in the side of the house. Go!”
We’re both careful to knock as much of the loose powder clinging to our clothes and boots off as possible while we come into the kitchen but the moment we close the door behind us and turn towards the car still making small clicking sounds in the middle of the dining room, we have to cover our mouths and noses with the sleeves of our jackets. The air is thick with gasoline fumes and it makes me nauseated and dizzy all at once.
“Let’s go,” I tell him. “The faster we find the luggage, the faster we can get out of here.”
He nods and motions me forward around the car into the living room and, as luck would have it, there are three large suitcases there waiting at the bottom of the stairs.
“Which one belongs to Steele?” Billy asks.
“The pink one is probably Kavanagh’s,” I say, wrapping my hands in the cuffs of my sweatshirt as I push it aside so I don’t leave fingerprints. “And I’d say it’s more likely that Ana has the purple bag than Sawyer.”
He kneels down next to me as I pull the zipper around the exterior of the luggage and then lift the lid. It’s mostly clothes, which makes going through the bag more difficult as they’re not neatly folded and we’re trying to do everything with our hands covered by the sleeves of our undershirts, but eventually we find the laptop in a zipped inside pocket.
He takes the laptop from me and glances around for somewhere to work, but with the fumes still hanging in the air we ultimately decide we’re going to have to do what we have to do upstairs. There’s one door open, which is one less thing we have to touch, so that’s the room we choose. But as Billy sets up at the desk and starts pulling out the power sources, hotspot generators, and other hightech gadgets that go way over my head, I realize that this is Anastasia’s room. Her walls are littered with pictures of her with Kate, or Sawyer, or an older man who I don’t know, but, for the most part, Grey is absent. In fact, the only picture of him in the room at all is on her nightstand. A framed 4×6 photo of the two of them holding drinks and smiling at the camera on a beach, probably from their Hawaiian vacation last fall.
I have to stop myself from reaching down and picking up the photo to get a better look. We’re not supposed to leave behind any trace of our presence, so instead I kneel down and look at it as closely as possible without touching.
God, he’s so beautiful.
Seeing him this way, looking so light and happy, doesn’t fit with the memories I have seeing him every day in the office, but it’s nice. I can imagine myself in this photo with him, that it’s because I’m next to him that he looks this way. I wonder what it would have been like to be the one he whisked off on long, romantic vacations in paradise? Does he like to go out and explore? To hike, or zipline, or snorkel in the crystal clear water of the sea? Or is he more of a sun lounger on the beach kind of guy? A smile crosses my face as I picture that, being stretched out under the warm Hawaiian sun on a fluffy towel draped over my chair, while he rubbed suntan lotion into my skin and whispered about all the inappropriate thoughts touching me was giving him. Perhaps he would even fuck me there, in the middle of the public beach where everyone could see, not caring because part of him loved to be staking the claim.
My eyes move to the bed on my left and I bite down on my lip as I think about how this is where he fucks Anastasia when he’s in town. He’s been naked in this bed and just thinking of that makes me want to strip out of all of my clothes and roll around in the sheets. What in this room has he touched? Perhaps he has clothes here, or a toothbrush?
I glance over my shoulder at Billy, but he’s plugged into the laptop and not paying any attention to me, so I move over to the closet door across from the bed in search of a souvenir. Unfortunately everything in here is Anastasia’s. He doesn’t have spare socks or underwear in a drawer and when I go into the bathroom, I don’t find an extra razor, toothbrush, or even a bottle of shampoo that I could be sure was just for him. Going through the cabinet under the sink and finding only tampons, extra shaving cream, and a box with over the counter cold medicine and tylenol in it has me thoroughly deflated until I stand, glance over the counter, and see a pair of silver cufflinks on a plastic container made of drawers. When I pick them up to examine them more closely, I find that one has a small letter C engraved into the otherwise smooth metal, and on its match is a G.
These are his.
Warmth rushes through me as my fingers tighten around them and I pull my closed fist up to my lips to kiss them. It’s not a lot, but it’s something. A connection to him. Something tangible for me to hold onto and to keep with me. I’m practically giddy over finding something so personal and easy to take, but as I uncurl my fingers to look at them again, the door opens behind me.
“What are you doing?” Billy asks.
He narrows his eyes at me. “Well let’s clean up and get out of here. It’s cold as shit and I want to be home before the next wave of the storm hits.”
I nod and stuff the cufflinks in my pocket, then find some Clorox wipes under the counter and both Billy and I get to work. He’s in more of a hurry than I am at making sure that no one can tell we’ve been here, but that’s why Lincoln insisted I come along. I have him wipe down the laptop and the desk he was working on while I clean the knobs on the closet and bathroom, and all of the handles on Anastasia doors. When it’s time to leave the room, I send him out first so I can sweep over the carpet to get rid of any footprints we’ve left behind.
He’s already outside by the time I get down the stairs and I almost just leave with him, but I notice he didn’t zip up Anastasia’s suitcase when he put the laptop back. I do up the bag myself, scan the living room and dining room, and clean up the water footprints by the door before I finally step back out into the frigid night air. From there we tread back through our footprints, covering what we leave behind, jump the fence, and take off through the alley toward his apartment.
“You should stay here,” he says when I turn to leave him at the front door of his building. “It’s freezing and your apartment is at least two miles away. Besides, once it starts snowing again, you’re going to be stuck until the emergency crews come and that could be days. You sure you want to do that all by yourself?”
I too look up and frown. He’s right about the cold. My body is already stiff and sore from being out here so long already and I don’t know that I have another two mile walk in me.
“Yeah, thanks,” I tell him.
He takes me upstairs and gives me some of his clothes since we’re both wet from being in the snow all night. Everything he has is way too big for me, but just having something dry against my skin does make me feel a little warmer. His apartment is only one bedroom, so he brings out extra blankets and a pillow for me to crash on the couch, and then we both sit down with a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a bag of chips. Without heat it’s hard to stay warm, but we make do with the small fire we build in a big metal pot out of old newspapers and popsicle sticks.
“I keep expecting Grey to come knocking on the door,” I admit. “For some reason, I feel like we’re going to get caught.”
“No one saw us,” he says, tossing another stick on the fire. “Grey would have to know exactly where to look to find the tunnel I built and with the shit Lincoln is going to feed through it into the server, the only guy who would find it will be gone by Monday. Trust me, your guy is going to be so pleased with this job he’s going to give us a permanent gig.”
“Only if you’re more careful. You forgot to zip up Anastasia’s bag. It would have been a dead give away someone had been in there if she went to pick up her suitcase and all of her stuff fell out on the floor.”
“Why am I responsible for closing it? You opened it.”
“But you put the laptop back in.”
“No I didn’t.” At first, his words are defensive, but off handed. The moment he hears them out loud though, his mouth goes slack and his eyes widen. “Fuck, no I didn’t.”
“What do you mean no you didn’t?”
“I-I cleaned it but I didn’t put it back. I left it on the desk.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?!”
“No. Shit, what do we do?”
“We have to go back!”
“We can’t go back. That’s a three mile round trip and it’s only getting colder. We can’t keep traipsing around outside all night, people die doing shit like that.”
“And when she goes home and finds her laptop on her desk instead of in her suitcase down-fucking-stairs?”
“I mean… what are the odds she’s even going to notice? It’s been a crazy day with the storm and Hyun… She’ll probably think she just forgot to pack it.”
I huff and look at the door, unsure of what to do. I really don’t want to go back outside again. Without my body heat against the wet fabric, my jeans have frozen and all I have to wear now is this baggy pair of sweats. I’m getting hypothermia just thinking about trudging through the snow like this. Besides, going back only increases our chances of beings seen. Suppose a neighbor thinks we’re breaking in or looting and somehow contacts the police, or worse, Grey. What if Sawyer comes back to get Ana’s things? No, going back isn’t a good idea, but neither is doing nothing.
“We’re going to have to tell him,” I say quietly.
“Him?” Billy repeats. “Wait… you mean, him?” I nod, and he starts shaking his head. “Are you crazy?”
“He’s going to need to prepare, just in case. Otherwise, all of this was for nothing.”
“He won’t pay us if we do tell him and then all of this really will be for nothing.”
“And if we get caught, who’s name do you think he’s going to give to the police?” He opens his mouth to argue, but can’t say anything. So, eventually, he nods to my backpack across the room where the satellite radio is still tucked away. I pull it out, flip the switch to turn it back on, and take several long seconds to prepare myself for whatever reaction I’m going to get before finally pushing the intercom button.
“Lincoln? Are you there?” Nothing. “Hello?”
Billy gets up and takes the radio from me, and after examining it for a moment and pushing a few different buttons, he shakes his head.
“Great. What do we do now?”
“We… wait until the roads are cleared. Grey is going to get her out of here the moment he can. Hopefully, she doesn’t look through her bags before she leaves and once she’s gone, we go through the house and take the laptop and some other obviously valuable stuff. She’ll think it was just a burglary. The tunnel is built in her GEH profile, we don’t need the laptop anymore.”
“Unless the laptop being stolen makes Grey check into her profile and he finds what we’ve done.”
He frowns. “Then we leave it by the door. Drop it or slide it under something so it looks like it got left behind. It explains why it wasn’t in the bag, but since the laptop never made it out of the house, he wouldn’t have any reason to think it was gone through.”
I take a deep breath, not fully satisfied with the plan but not having anything better to suggest myself. Billy goes back to the fire, trying to keep it going, and motions for me to come sit next to him again so we can keep warm together, and for the rest of the night we perfect his idea until we’re both absolutely certain the plan is foolproof.
The power doesn’t come on the next day, or the next. By Monday, we’re down to living on cold cans of chili and dry ramen. No snow plows have made it through the city yet, so we’re still stranded and we’re so bored out of our minds that we’re constantly at each other’s throats. On Monday night we’re fighting with each other so loudly, neither one of us hear the knock on the apartment door until the person on the other side starts banging against the wood.
We freeze and look nervously at one another. Is it Grey, or someone who works for him? Were we not as careful as we thought?
Billy grabs a metal bat from behind the door in his bedroom and walks cautiously towards the door. “Who is it?”
“It’s Kommer, open up.”
“Kommer?” I repeat, confused. “He’s supposed to be in Seattle. How did he get here?”
Billy shrugs and opens the door, and when the severe looking man steps inside, I feel a weird sense of dread. Like I’m in a mob movie and the Don has just sent his goon.
“Hyun was released yesterday, we’ve got him. You two need to come with me.”
“Is he okay?” I ask.
“He’s fine. Get your shit and let’s go. I’ve got a chopper waiting downtown.”
Billy and I glance at each other and I wonder if he’s thinking the same thing I am. Heat. Glorious, healing, wonderful heat, and food that has been cooked.
I hurry though the door out into the hallway and follow Kommer as he leads us out of the building onto the street. For the first few blocks, I don’t even care that the air is unbearably cold against my legs under the billowy sweatpants I’m still dressed in. But soon, that cold seeps into my bones.
“Where are we going?”
“Marriott,” he says and then stays quiet for the rest of the long walk to downtown Cambridge. Once we get to the hotel, we go up the service entrance all the way to the roof where there is a helicopter and pilot waiting for us. Kommer takes my hand to help me inside, then climbs up front. Billy takes the seat next to me, and after the pilot has closed us both inside, we’ve harnessed ourselves in, and slipped a pair of headphones over our ears, the pilot finishes his pre-flight checks and we rise slowly into the air.
Perhaps it’s the fresh wave of heat coming from the vents in the cockpit, or maybe just the relief of finally being out of Billy’s apartment, but rising off the ground and flying into the night feels as though a weight has been lifted off of me. Like I’m escaping from prison or a horrible nightmare. But after a half-hour passes, I realize, I have no idea where we’re going and I’m not wearing the type of headset you can use to communicate with the pilot.
I turn and tap Billy’s shoulder to get his attention. “Where are we going?”
His brow furrows and he points to his headset, signaling he can’t hear, so I slow the words down and over annunciate, hoping he’ll read my lips. He must understand me that time, because he looks away through the front windshield with confusion, then turns to me and shrugs.
The flight lasts a total of 2 ½ hours, but the bad weather means I have no idea if we’ve gone a long distance or we’ve just had to fly more carefully. When we step out of the helicopter I don’t recognize any of our surroundings and I don’t see any signs giving a hint to where we may be. The only thing I see is a car waiting not far away from the airfield where we’ve landed.
“Let’s go,” Kommer says.
We follow him to the car and he gestures for Billy and me to get in the backseat while he moves around to the front passenger’s side. I’m far too busy looking around through the dark windows for any kind of indication of where we may be to be too concerned with the driver, until Kommer gets in the car and leans over to kiss the woman sitting behind the wheel.
“Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes?”
“I’ve missed you,” she whispers between her near ravenous attack on his face. They continue making out for several minutes, and as the woman’s breaths and moans become more and more desperate, the empty space surrounding Billy and I become more and more awkward.
“Umm… where are we going?” I ask, and finally the woman pulls away and rounds on me. She’s beautiful, really beautiful, but I’ve never seen her before.
“Why don’t you just relax, huh? I wouldn’t be in a real big hurry to get where you’re going anyway.”
She doesn’t answer. Instead she turns back to the wheel and shifts the car into drive. Billy shoots a look across the seat towards me, his eyes wide and nervous, and as I let the meaning behind her words sink in, my hand slowly shifts to the handle on the door. When I pull it, nothing happens. The child locks are on.
“Where are you taking us?” Billy demands, but neither of them respond. The woman turns on the radio and signals to get on the freeway, while Kommer kicks a leg up on the dash and starts scrolling through emails on his phone.
“Grey’s got her back in Seattle now,” he says. “I just go the GEH security email. Ryan says Grey’s been out of work all week.”
“I know. Elliot went to meet the plane when they got back. He’s barely called me since then, which I bet has something to do with Kavanagh. I swear to god if that little whore ruins all the hard work I’ve put into this loser…”
“Well, I can’t say I’d be disappointed if you had to stop fucking him.”
She looks away from the road, and gives him a soft, pleading glance. “We talked about this, Anthony. He’s our way in. Dating Elliot means I’ll have access to security codes, clearance to get into Escala, invitations to vacations and weekends spent on the boat. Grey will never be out of our sight.”
“I could get us those things without you having to open your legs for another man.”
“Not until you get out of GEH security and into personal security. We all have our jobs, baby. You work on Taylor, I’ll work on Elliot. At the end of this, you and I are never going to have to work again.”
He nods. “Yeah. Yeah, I know that…”
“And I love you. I only love you.”
“I love you too.” He leans over and kisses her gently on the cheek, then finally glances back at Billy and me. “Ten more minutes.”
Eventually, I’m able to glean enough information from signs and buildings to deduce that we’re in Albany, though why, I’m still not sure. There does seem to be power here though, which is exciting, until I realize we’re driving right past the city and into a more industrial looking area that’s much less populated.
“Where are we going?” I ask again, more nervous now.
“Here,” Kommer says. The woman pulls into a dark alley and kills the engine outside a heavy metal door set in a nondescript brick wall. He turns to smile at both of us. “The boss has a surprise for you.”
I swallow, suddenly feeling a swift rush of terror. He knows about the laptop. He has to know about the laptop. How did he find out? What is he going to do?
“Don’t say a word about the laptop,” Billy hisses the second Kommer and the woman driver are out of the car. I don’t have time to answer him though, because my door opens and Kommer reaches inside to pull me out. The woman waits to escort Billy behind me, and then we’re both pushed through the door into a dimly lit open space that looks a lot like a warehouse. The only thing that gives me any kind of peace as the heavy door closes behind us is the number of people in the room. I recognize a surprising number from GEH, including Jack Hyde, a guy who I remember from the few times I met with Elena Lincoln, Isaac I think his name was, and Hyun, who is sitting in the center of everyone on chair looking weak and exhausted.
“Hey,” I say, coming up and kneeling next to him. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” He nods and then looks tentatively around at the small crowd of people around us. They’re all talking amongst themselves, speculating what’s going on from the sound of it, so he leans in close to me and speaks softly into my ear.
“He saved my life. Grey. They said if I’d have gotten surgery even a few hours later, they wouldn’t have been able to save me. I-I… don’t think I can do this anymore. No amount of money Lincoln has promised us is worth what we’re doing to the man who is the reason I’m here today…”
“Which is exactly why we’re here,” a voice rings loud and clear through the open room, echoing off the walls and forcing everyone to fall silent. I rise to my feet, turn toward the direction of the sound, and watch as Andrew Lincoln ambles carelessly towards us. The crowd parts as he moves, as if his importance is the equivalent to the power of God against the Red Sea. He stops a few paces ahead of us then begins circling Hyun’s chair, like a shark.
“I’ve brought you all here today because you’re all very important players in this little game we’re playing. It’s a bit like domino’s, you see. Each and every one of you is a piece who has a part to play in the whole. As long as you do what you’re supposed to, we all stand tall. It only takes one weak link for the chain to break. One domino topples in the line and we all fall. Now, I don’t know about any of you, but I’m not ready for this game to be over yet. I’m not quite ready to fall.” He stops in front of Hyun and narrows his cold gaze in on him. “So you feel indebted to Grey, do you?”
Hyun swallows. “Yes. I do. He saved my life and I can’t in good conscious continue to help ruin his. I’m sorry, but I’m out.”
“You see, that’s where you’re wrong,” Andrew continues. “There is no out.”
The room falls dead silent. No one moves. No speaks. No one even dares to breathe until a shrill jingle breaks the tension.
“Sorry,” the woman from the car says, reaching for her purse and digging through its contents. The irritation apparent on Lincoln’s face is chilling. “It’s Elliot.”
Lincoln takes a breath, but waves to her and as she holds her finger up to her lips to tell everyone in the room to stay silent. She answers.
“Hey, baby. Nothing. Just catching up on Gossip Girl and enjoying a face mask. What are you doing? Oh… tonight? I’m sorry, I wish I could, but my bestie is coming over and we’re going to have a little girl’s night. Lunch tomorrow? Perf. And, do I need to bring anything to your parents’ house on Thursday? Awh, babe. You’re so sweet. I’ll see you tomorrow? ‘Kay, bye.”
She hangs up the phone and then turns to Lincoln. “We need to hurry this up, I have to get back to Seattle.” She then turns and shoots a smug look at everyone in the circle. “I’m spending Thanksgiving with the Greys.”
“You see, this is commitment,” Lincoln says. “This is the dedication I need. That you all signed up for. Not. This.” He turns back to Hyun, who cowers slightly in his chair.
“Look, I’m not going to say anything.”
“No, you’re not. But you are going to do something very important for me tonight. You’re going to show every person here what happens when they stop being committed. You’re going to show everyone what happens when they start to feel like maybe Grey isn’t so bad after all.”
“What do you—” Hyun’s voice cuts off as Lincoln reaches into the back waistband of his trousers and removes a pistoL. Hyun’s eyes grow wide with fear and he begins to tremble. “Okay, okay. I changed my mind. I’m in. I’m very dedicated. Whatever you need, I’m your guy.”
“Ah, that’s very comforting to hear, Son,” Lincoln says. “But… what kind of lesson would that be?” He pulls back the hammer to the pistol and Hyun jumps out of his chair to run, but Kommer has him in the next second. The woman picks up a rope and brings it to him, and after Kommer has fully tied up and subdued Hyun, he tosses him carelessly to the floor.
“Anytime any of you think about talking to someone or not following through with what I’ve asked you to do, I want you to remember this. I want you all to remember that none of you are alone. Someone is watching you, and anyone who comes to me with news of someone’s dishonesty or disloyalty is going to be rewarded. The person who has double crossed me, well…” He raises the gun and points it directly at Hyun.
“Wait, no! Please!” he begs, and for a moment, I think the look of sheer terror on his face may have actually gotten through to Lincoln. He hesitates, then lowers his gun, and Hyun starts bawling uncontrollably.
“This isn’t right,” Lincoln says. “This isn’t how this should go.” He lets his arm fall to his side, and then he turns back to the woman standing next to Kommer.
“Gia, my love. I think it’s time you got your first.”
“Yes. Come here. Help your father.” She stands there for a moment, gaping at him, and his look of proud adoration falters. “Unless, you’re not as committed as you say you are.”
“No, I am!” she says quickly. “I am.”
“Then come here.”
Her shoulders rise and fall as she takes a deep breath and then slowly moves towards Lincoln. He gives her the pistol and then places a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Just like I taught you.”
She nods and then faces Hyun. Every muscle in my body tightens as I watch her raise the gun and then hear the horrified pleas that start bubbling out of the boy in front of her. He begs for his life, but she doesn’t seem to hear him. Kommer puts him on his knees in front of her, facing away so she won’t have to look in his eyes, and she squares up, adjusts her grip on the gun, and halfway through one of Hyun’s desperate, sob broken sentences, she squeezes the trigger.
The gunshot echoes loudly through the open warehouse and I scream as I’m standing close enough to Hyun that the blood splatter hits me across the face. My ears are ringing and my entire body goes cold. Shock sets in.
Hyun is dead.
Lincoln murdered him right in front of me. Right in front of all of us.
Gia is still. The gun still held up in front of her as she watches Hyun’s body slump to the floor, and in the next second Lincoln is on her again, wrapping her in his arms. “How does that feel, baby?”
“I-uh…” She’s stammering, so he turns her away from the body and forces her to look into his eyes. “You did well, Gia. I’m very proud of you. How do you feel, sweet girl?”
“Powerful.” Her voice is only a pale echo of a whisper, but every person in the room can hear her just as clearly as they would have if she’d yelled it. Lincoln’s face lights up.
“Yes. That’s good. Remember that. Use that.” He hugs her tightly and I watch a strange kind of emotion cross Gia’s face over his shoulder. A kind of pleasure that’s sickening and terrifying. When Lincoln pulls away, he smiles again and kisses her lips. “So pretty.”
She beams, then slips the gun back in her father’s hand before returning to Kommer’s side. He doesn’t look as comfortable with what just happened as Lincoln or even Gia herself does, but he opens his arms for her all the same, and when she squeezes him around the middle, he kisses the top of her hair.
“Anyone else having feelings of remorse or second thoughts?” Lincoln asks, scanning the crowd. No one replies, no one even moves, and it makes him smile. “Good. Then we shouldn’t have to come here again. Although, I’m sure my darling daughter could use the practice.” He pauses, and glances proudly back at her again. “Just remember, we’re always watching. And I don’t give second chances.”
He slips the gun back into the waistline of his trousers and turns away, and there’s a mass shuffle for the door. I stand there, frozen in disbelief as I stare at Hyun’s body. I thought we were going to be yelled at, have our pay taken away, maybe even be given a few extra watches as punishment for the laptop. I never expected this… and this didn’t even have the possibility of getting him caught the way our fuck up did.
“Let’s get out of here,” Billy hisses, yanking on my arm. I nod and turn to follow the flow of people, but am stopped when I hear Lincoln’s voice calling my name.
“Leila, dear. Come back here please.”
I stop, but Billy doesn’t. He glances back at me but unapologetically continues his way out of the room, and I stand there helpless until it’s just me, Lincoln, Gia, and Kommer left.
“Come here, sweetheart,” Lincoln says, and I have no choice but so swallow my fear and turn back to him.
“You’ve had a rough couple days in Cambridge. I’m so sorry.”
“Oh, that’s okay. I’m fine.”
“I know you are, because you are a strong young woman and I applaud you for it. But, all the same, I’d like to do something for you. We’ll keep you here for a few days, in a suite in a wonderful hotel. Any restaurants you want to go to, any shopping you’d like to do… just charge it all to me. We’ll fly you back to Cambridge once the clean up from the storm is over.”
“Really? Uh… thank you.”
“Of course. Just as I punish those who defy me, I reward those who are loyal. You are loyal to me, aren’t you Leila?”
I nod furiously. “Yes. Absolutely.”
“Good, because I know very well that your grudge is against Anastasia, not Christian, and I know very well how you feel about him. So, going forward, I want you to remember today. I want you to think about this every single day.”
“I won’t be a problem, I promise. I am committed to doing what has to be done, I swear. Grey is nothing to me. He deserves this. They both do.”
“That’s all I want to hear.” He smiles and turns again. “Gia, let’s get Leila here set up at the Renaissance. She’s spent the past few days being very cold, make sure she’s comfortable.”
“And Kommer, take care of that.” He motions to Hyun’s body. “Leave his body in his own car, but not here. I want Grey to think it was necessary to conduct the violence elsewhere so that he won’t heighten security around Cambridge. Anastasia is the most important piece of my plan and I don’t want to make Leila’s job any more difficult than it already is.”
Linc winks back at me, then turns to leave the room, and I’m left to help Gia and Kommer dispose of a body. To wrap it in plastic and store until it can be returned to Cambridge where his car has been left. From there, I have no idea what they plan to do, but I resolve as I’m finally put in a car and taken to the swanky hotel in downtown Albany, that I’m never going to let that be me.