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Fiction

The woman sighs. “You know, you’re really starting to try my patience.”

She stands in the middle of the room, leaning back on her left leg, thumb hooked in her belt loop. Her stance is easy and open, expression amiable. The very embodiment of relaxed, except that her right arm is tensed, third finger lightly resting on the trigger of her gun, that she holds absolutely steady even as she rocks back and forth, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. Her muzzle is motionless, fixed in place, its aim unmoving.

She lifts her free hand to run her fingers through her hair. They come to rest at her temple as she sighs again, and blinks once, slowly. “Ok.”

Her gun does not waver once as she closes her eyes, and neither does the man on the floor in front of her. Blood pools around his foot, smears in a wide arc across the floor. He had tried to run the first time Sujaya had turned his back on him, and she had given him a bullet through his ankle in return, still angled away from him, with only her head and her gun turned back towards him. The shot had been a very clear warning about trying to escape - Kanya suspects that was the only reason she left him that opening at all - and clearly the lesson had taken hold.

“Ok,” the woman repeats. “So. I’m gonna run through this one more time, ok?”

She pauses, as if waiting for an answer, but the man, panting where he’s slumped, half up against a wall, half reaching forward, trying to stem the blood flow.

“I am going to give you one last chance to answer my question.” Her voice is as light as ever, but her gaze is steely, eyes sharp as flint. She takes a step forward, and it echoes through the small room. “You, are going to answer that question. Tell me everything you know, and if I am satisfied with what I hear, then I leave you here without putting a bullet through your skull. Fail to comply, and, well.” She tilts her head down, gesturing at the pistol in her hand, as though anyone could have forgotten it was there.

“So, for the last time. Where is Dana Rosiello?”

The man’s gasping breaths have slowly transitioned to panicked pleading, but Sujaya is unmoved. She steps closer still, heavy boot now right up against his injured foot in tacit threat, and for the first time her words have taken on a hard edge, tone losing its hollow geniality.

She ignores the man’s pleas completely. “No answer. That’s fine, I suppose. How about, Aiden Quinn?”

“Please- I.”

Sujaya is merciless. “Oh, you don’t know where he is either? Not looking good, I’m afraid. Denise Munroe?

“Please, why… What, what do you want?”

Kanya closes her eyes, uneasy. She stands in the corner furthest from the door, nominally watching the exits, but the stench of iron is flooding her nostrils and it’s all she can do to keep herself from vomiting. 

The man on the floor seems equally close to throwing up. Sujaya has no such qualms. She presses on.

“What I want. I thought I’d already told you. I want you, to give me the location, of any person I have just listed. Just one. You want more names, I’ve got ‘em. Kritika Aggarwal?”

Kanya inhales sharply, her sister’s name somehow catching her off guard despite being her sole reason for being here.

The man does not react in any way other than changing tact, realising that appealing to Sujaya’s sense of sympathy is futile. “I, I’m sorry, I - I can’t, I don’t.”

“You don’t know? Because I’ve got more names. You’ve hurt a lot of people, Mr Roberts.”

“I know, I - I’m sorry, but-”

“Oh, you’re sorry?” For the first time, she can hear some real anger rising in Sujaya’s voice. She glances back towards her. “You hear that? He’s sorry. Well, I guess we’re done here, might as well pack up and go, if he’s sorry.”

“I don’t… I mean, that, I-”

“No,” she cuts him off, punctuating the word with a light kick at his bleeding ankle. The man screams, and when she pulls her foot back the gleam of her steel-capped boots is dulled by blood. 

“No,” she says again, and for the first time since meeting her, Kanya feels as if she’s witnessing some small fraction of the fury she knows burns deep within Sujaya being truly unleashed. “You don’t get to be sorry. You don’t get to feel bad, or find redemption. I am not even halfway through my list of people you have somehow lost, who’ve gone missing after meeting you, and those are just the people - kids, some of them - on my radar. And you clearly didn’t feel jack then, so you don’t get to be sorry now. What you get to do, is give me the goddamn whereabouts of a single person on my list, and then maybe - maybe - you get to walk out of this room.” She snorts, and prods at his foot again. “Or, you know. Hobble.”

She thinks she can make out tears on the man’s face, even as far away as she is. “I can’t. They - they’ll kill me, if they find out.”

Sujaya shrugs with her left shoulder, her right arm still threatening, moored in place. Her tone is cold once more, any hint of emotion burned out. “I’ll kill you now.”

The man sighs. Closes his eyes slowly, opens them just as deliberately. He opens his mouth, and Sujaya lets him speak. “Why should I… What do you do for me?”

Sujaya laughs. “Live? Darling, I don’t think you understand how not in a position to bargain you are right now.”

The man does not relent, and some small part of Kanya almost admires him for it. “How… How do I know, that you’ll keep your word, if I tell you.”

She looks him dead on, not a trace of humour left in her voice. “Simple. You give me what I need, I leave you alive, so that if it turns out you were lying, I can come back and kill you myself.” She leans in. “And if I do, I promise you it won’t be quick.”

Straightening up again, she continues. “Work with me, and I make sure you get all the protection a county jail can offer. Might keep some of your, associates, away.”

The man’s breathing is shallow, but he manages a light sigh. “Fine. There’s a holding cell, down in Tortmouth - third warehouse down the docks.” His speech is broken, and wheezing breaths punctuates every other word. “It’s got a, blue door. Navy. Big enough for a small van.  I have contacts, they’re -” He fumbles with his trousers, finally digging out a small brick phone. “Here.” He hands it over, and Sujaya tosses it to Kanya, who nearly drops it, hands dripping sweat. “Code’s, 7824. They’re all there - anyone I’m in contact with. I don’t know anything else, they don’t tell me. Need to know.”

Sujaya hums, and gestures vaguely at Kanya. “It all there?”

She starts at being addressed, and looks down at the device in her hands. The code works, and it’s easy to find a short list of numbers, with senseless labels. “Think so.”

“Right.” Sujaya takes a moment to consider, and steps back. “That’s everything?”

“Everything I know.” He sounds desperate, and close to passing out.

“Fine.” She looks from him to her gun, and comes to some decision.

“I’m still calling the cops,” she starts. “But, if you can.” She exhales, soft and low. “Just.” Another step backwards. And for the first time, moves her gun - brandishing it as she gestures to the back door, as if it were a pointer not a pistol. “Get out of my sight.”

She starts towards the front door, signalling at Kanya to follow her. The man looks stunned, but then slowly starts pulling himself away from the wall, wisely deciding to move before she changed her mind.

The gunshot rings through the ring.

A thud. Muted, as the man falls the little height he’d gained and hits the floor. There’s a neat circle in the back of his head, staining his blonde hair auburn.

Kanya stares in shock, at Sujaya, at the smoking barrel in her hand.

“Come on,” she says, utterly unperturbed, and walks out of the room.

August 21, 2021 01:44

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