“Lexi, who the hell is Ossie?” Dexter asked. He pulled me aside, away from the boys.
I stared blankly at the wall behind him. “Ossie is the nickname for Nikolai’s brother Oscar. I’d never met him, though. Nikolai said he died a few years ago, maybe around my eleventh birthday. Same time my parents died, actually.”
So now Nikolai is involved in this. Has he been the entire time? I don’t understand how he could ever harm me, let alone try to completely…destroy me. This whole situation makes no sense whatsoever. Cops being involved…other people.
One giant operation…all of them bent on taking me down. What had I done? Why is everyone after me?
Returning to the boys, I said, “I’ll let the two of you go. But so help me god, if you two speak a word of this, I’ll kill you myself before they get a chance to.”
“You’d never be able to find us. We’re with him, now.” Ivan said defiantly.
“What do you mean ‘with him’.” I narrowed my eyes.
“He’s got us staying at some house a few blocks away from here. He’s protecting us. As long as we help him, anyway.”
“I see. Now, what is the address of this house you speak of?”
“I won’t give that up, lady.”
“If you don’t, I’ll fucking kill you.” I growled, and flung the cleaver again. The blade landed next to Adam’s side. He cursed.
“It’s 913 Willow Ave.” Adam stammered. “He’s keeping us there.”
Hmm. If I’m not mistaken, that is the block behind my own house. And the house directly behind my own. No wonder he was able to get away so quickly the night he knocked me out. That also explains how he was able to watch my movements. Although, there are more people that I need to find. They gave me decent descriptions, yes, but I need a name.
At least now I know that Nikolai is a part of this, and most likely the ring leader. If I can get to him, I could find the rest.
My mind wandered back to the Hyde brothers. Abel has been trying to get me to come back home for a good while. He could either be worried, or helping Ashby. He was always Nik’s pet. Cole…he couldn’t possibly have anything to do with this. We are far too close, and knowing him, he would have cracked under pressure by now and told me everything.
And if he hadn’t told me, he would have killed himself.
I need to get in contact with him. Hopefully I can get Cole out of there, and work with him. The more people I have on my side, the better. With the cops on my back, though, this will be difficult, but there is nothing that I cannot handle. I have the Morgan’s, who could aid in throwing off the police. I need to make use of my resources.
“Ivan, Adam? Were you involved in the murders from the other night?” my voice sounded soft, which surprised me.
“Yeah, we were. That guy told us to kill that family and do all that other nasty shit. He hid in one of the downstairs bedrooms. Said he knew you’d follow him there.”
So it was those two rattling the blinds. They must’ve jumped out the window to escape in time. And he stayed behind.
But the man didn’t look anything like Nikolai.
Strange. Who could he have been, then? I still feel as if I know him, I just cannot figure out exactly who he is, and what place he has, or had, in my life.
“Did he also know that I was going to kick the shit out of him?”
“Nope, but he was pretty pissed. Said if he could, he’d have slit your throat. He didn’t expect you to fight him.”
A Brother that lacks fighting skills, how funny…he must prefer taking his targets out with weapons, rather than personally. To avoid fighting, I assume.
"I can tell you what I can say. You take after your mother." I could practically hear him grinning behind me. "She was a bit twisted, too. Your father on the other hand…he was the more detached killer."
"Oh? How so?" My anger slowly began to rise.
"He was never personal, that's all. He preferred taking his victims out with a gun from a distance, whereas both you and your mother tend to capture the victim and proceed to torture them for an extended period of time, then finally kill." He chuckled. "Remember Nixon Adler?"
The killer had said my father was exactly like that. Not a fighter, he couldn’t hold up well in hand to hand combat. That explains his death…a mugging. Probably couldn’t fight the guy off. But…how does a contract killer die from a mugging? I settled with that reason my whole life, I believed that was how they died…but now…it sounds so…unbelievable.
What if they are alive?
What if they’re a part of this?
When I lived in Salers with my parents, they were never around. If the two of them were involved, I suppose it would be understandable if I did not recognize them. It has been years since they ‘died’, and before that event, I never saw their faces. There wasn’t even a family photo to prove I was their child. As far as I’m concerned, they took me in to train another killer.
I could have led a normal life, if it weren’t for them….
Ossie…why use that name? And what is that a nickname for?
“How many men were there?” I asked.
“Three.” Adam answered.
So one of them is Ossie, the other most likely Nikolai, and another unknown. And then there is the female that they mentioned. The one they report to. I stared at the boys firmly and decided it would be best to release them rather than kill them. If I let them go, they’ll keep in touch with the group. And maybe if I promise to protect them, they can act as informants.
But who’s to say they won’t kill them for not getting their job done?
There’s a risk involved in sending these kids back, but it’s one worth taking. Adam and Ivan could prove to be useful.
Grabbing the knife, I got to work cutting the duct tape off of their bodies. Enough was cut off so that they could move, and remove the remaining strips of tape. They pulled the tape off, cursing as the adhesive clung to their skin and tore patches of hair out. I tossed their clothes over.
“I have a proposition for the two of you.”
“A what?” Ivan asked.
“A deal.” I cleared my throat. “I can ensure that you both are never harmed by either members of the gang you were recruited into, as long as you both act as informants, and never speak of this day.”
“How are we not supposed to talk about this? Nik wants us to tell him exactly what happened.”
I grinned. Nik. These boys are awful at keeping secrets. But maybe the threat of death will make them keep their pretty little mouths closed.
One can only hope.
“Simply tell him I wasn’t here. That I must have left the apartment before you had arrived. That you waited a few hours, but I hadn’t come back.” I shrugged. “Lying should come easy for hoodlums like you.”
“Hey! We’re not hoodlums.” Adam’s face scrunched up.
“Then what are you?” I asked, slightly amused at his defensiveness.
“Skinheads. And we’re part of your Brotherhood thing.” he said proudly.
“Well. As I said, lying should come easy. And if you do as I say, and report back to me, you will never be harmed.”
“No one’ll come after us?”
“No one will. I promise.”
“I don’t know…”
“There is no ‘I don’t know’. You either do it, or I’ll send your heads to their home as a little present.” I threatened.
Ivan’s eyes looked as if they were about to pop out of their sockets. “Fine. We’ll do it.”
“Yes.” I looked them both in the eye. “Now leave. And never speak of this. I’ll find you if I need to contact you.”
“How will you be able to track us down?”
“Don’t worry about that. Now, go.” I stepped behind the door as the two walked out of the apartment.
Dexter sighed. “That takes care of those two. Do you have any idea who we’re going after now?”
We? I thought, and quirked an eyebrow. I thought this was all about me finding them.
“I know exactly who to go after. I need to find this Ossie the boys mentioned. I know they’re staying at the house behind mine. Across the street from their home, is an abandoned house; the lawn is overgrown, the windows have been boarded over…it’s a perfect place to watch over them.”
“But wouldn’t they know what you’re up to?”
Who exactly is watching me, I hadn’t bothered to ask. Most likely the boys. Keeping tabs on me is a smaller job, while planning out my demise…well, that’s for them to handle.
“It’s probably those hoodlums that were watching me. After today, I think they’ll back off a bit.”
“You think so?”
“Mhm. Even that little prick Ivan looked scared when I threatened them. And after being able to subdue them in seconds flat, they should know what I’m capable of.”
A distant look settled in Dexter’s eyes. I followed his gaze. It trailed down to my stomach. His eyes remained there for a few seconds before returning to my face.
His mouth opened, but only a strained sound escaped.
“You seem bothered by something.”
“They really branded you?” he asked. His voice was gentle, tentative.
“Yeah…they did. It’s a way of showing that we’ve reached our full potential…think of it as a sort of black belt. Expert killers are marked with the brand.”
“Aren’t you all marked with it? You’re all trained killers.”
“Yes, we all are, but not all of us are born with the same ability. The way to differentiate the exceptional from the average, is by our markings. Those with lesser abilities are tattooed; their ribs or back are adorned with the Brotherhood crest, whereas people like myself are branded. The reasoning for such markings has always eluded me, but I’m glad I’m not one of the weaker ones.” I scowled.
“They get picked off quicker.”
“What do you mean?”
“The…duds, are used in training exercises. They usually become the first target for us. We eliminate the weaker members.”
My gaze diverted to the floor. I laughed bitterly. “My first kill was quite an experience, if you ask me.”
“How? What’d you do?”
“I killed my best friend.” I turned away from Dexter and returned to the couch. “If you’re not busy later, would you like to accompany me to the house across from Ossie’s?” I asked, changing the subject.
I never liked to speak of my first kill.
. . .
“Oh, you’re finally eating?” Dexter asked. He dried his hair with his towel.
“Mhm.” I responded, taking a bite out of a baked potato. “This is perfect, considering I don’t eat much.” I stared at the spud. “Complex carbs; slow digesting, and release sugars into the bloodstream slowly, which will then return glycogen into the muscle tissue.”
He smirked. “You know quite a bit. How’d you learn that?”
“Science. Glad I know that, because if I didn’t load up on starches every now and again, I’d undergo muscle fatigue. And that wouldn’t be good. But, are you ready?”
. . .
The clock had just turned 7:30. The hot Miami sun had set, and the moon rose. Buildings were cast in shadow, aiding Dexter and I in our attempt to remain hidden from the group watching over me. I cracked the lock on the front door of the abandoned house and walked in, swatting cobwebs out of my face. His flashlight clicked on, illuminating the living room, revealing a fully furnished room.
I set my bag down upon the coffee table and cleared a layer of dust and grime off of the window with a gloved hand. Disgusted, I discarded the latex, and placed another glove on my hand. Dexter and I glanced at each other simultaneously.
“And now we wait.” I said.