I woke at 11:14 and checked on the girl. Finding her still out cold, I roved downstairs for a sandwich and a cup of joe, then took a smoke to clear my head. Sitting down with the crossword and a glass of scotch, I began to think.
The doc had no idea that I had the girl. He’d probably expect it to take a day or two for me to track her down and catch her, at the very least. He’d probably also expect me to hide her once I had her, but as long as I was inside of his predictions, I’d have time to work with. Not a lot, mind you, but perhaps enough to get the girl to talk. If she’d been following Phain, it seemed likely she might have intel on him that I could use to my advantage. I wondered how I might be able to do it.
As I was finishing the crossword, I heard movement upstairs and decided to pay the girl a visit. Perhaps I could entice her to talk with a little bit of careful persuasion. If not, well, I had other methods. The doc might have started this, but I intended to finish it, one way or another. I climbed the stairs to the bedroom and went in, drawing the tranquilizer gun as I strode across to the closet.
I turned the lock and pulled the door open, tranq gun in hand. She looked up at me in silent accusation, unmoving save for the heavy rise and fall of her chest. I saw a flicker of fear there, but it was hidden beneath a calm exterior, suppressed by training and experience. That fear would be my way in, the chink in the armor that would give me the purchase I needed. I was determined to exploit it.
Crouching, I touched the gun to her chin.
“You know who made this, don’t you?” I inquired, leaning close to her. She nodded as best she could. I pressed on. “He hired me to bring you back to him alive, for questioning.” I waited for the impact of my words to actually sink in. Her breath came faster, and I could see the tension in her muscles. She was scared of him, and rightly so.
“Now, if you tell me what you know about the doc and why you’re following him, I might put in a good word for you, see if there’s anything I can do to help you out a little bit. The more I have on the doc, the easier that is for me.” She shook her head, resilient. I tried a different tactic, holstering the weapon and drawing my knife from where I had it hidden in my shirt. I pressed it to her chin, and then her neck, and then her chest, resting its edge against the right side of her bosom.
“You realize I’m no stranger myself to the ways of making people talk,” I threatened, pressing the knife against the firm, tight cleavage of her breast. “If you make me, I can more than soften you up for the doc. I might even break you before he does.” I waited for a second, and then drew the knife across her flesh, bright red blood welling up in its track. She convulsed, jerking away in a motion that caused me to strike deeper and more jaggedly than I had intended. I cleaned the knife on her dress and laid it on her breast again, the cold steel causing her to jerk away, but this time, I held her firmly by the shoulder. She had no escape, and we both knew it.
I could tell she was in pain – more pain than I had intended. The first cut had gone deep, and it was not as clean as I had meant to make it. I knew that it would be excruciating, and I drove home the advantage with a second cut, and then a third. A part of me was almost enjoying it, and I was sickened. Somewhere deep in my stomach, something churned, but I managed not to retch. I knew the feeling would return. I drew her dress strap down over her shoulder and laid the knive against her arm, pressing her back against the wall with my knee and sliding the knife under her breast until I found the tit. I pressed into it with the knife’s edge, and she winced, feeling the sharp pain as it slit into the most intimate and indescribably tender protrusion of her body.
“Last chance, Sophia. Tell me what you know about the doctor or I’m going to cut it off, and we both have an idea of how badly that will hurt.”
She quailed, paling visibly and trembling. I could see she was clinging desperately to her silence, and I inched the knife just incrementally. I didn’t want to cut her deeply enough to leave a scar, or even a serious wound. I didn’t need to. The pain was enough by itself. She’d suffered enough at my hands without a permanent reminder of her pain to shadow over her for the rest of her life and a disfigurement that would touch the very heart of who she was as a woman. A spasm of pain wracked through her body, convulsing her against the wall as I held her there. When her tear-filled eyes unclenched and opened slightly, I saw defeat there, and I brought the knife away gently, careful to avoid inflicting further agony and damage as I removed it from the cut. I left the dress strap hanging off her shoulder, reasoning that moving it would cause her pain as the fabric slid past her tit.
I laid the knife down and caressed her shoulder gently, tipping her chin up with the other hand and removing the tape that had covered her mouth. She was crying, and I let her do so, knowing I had broken her. I mentally resolved to put the pieces back together, and was sorry that the doctor was likely to shatter them again. I’d have to ensure he didn’t do so permanently. Perhaps I could prevent him from doing so at all.
“It’s okay,” I said. “Just tell me what you know and I won’t hurt you any more.” I tried to make my voice as soothing as I could. I brought her chest to mine in a gentle hug, holding the back of her head with my right hand and crossing over to rub her exposed back and shoulder with my left. I realized she was just a girl, untested in the field. I’d broken her on what was probably her first official mission. But something wasn’t right. The girl in the photograph had seemed to have a certain aire of experience about her, something this one didn’t. I listened to her as she spoke in halting sobs.
“I’m not Sophia,” she sobbed. “I’m her sister!” It was a moment before she spoke again, and I noticed subtle differences I had not before between this woman and the one in the photograph. Hair that was just a fraction longer, nails that were trimmed short, an asymmetry to her body that spoke of years as a musician, using one arm more often than the other – the clues were there. Had not she said as much, I would have taken them for things that I had missed, but now that I was paying more attention they were obvious. I guessed that they were twins, and her next words confirmed it as she finally composed herself.
“Sophia works for MI6. I work for the CIA. We’re twins, and I came to London because she asked me to. She said someone was spying on her and she needed my help to find out who.”
I asked her what she knew about the doctor.
“Nothing, only that Sophia is in danger from him. I just got here the other night and found her place was empty. Someone ransacked it, but I found a piece of paper with the doctor’s address. I was watching it when you showed up.” She drew a gasping sob. “Please don’t kill me. I just want my sister back.” I could feel her terror and exhaustion, and in her voice I heard the fear she felt for her sister. I had been told that twins could sense each other’s peril and emotions, and I wondered if somewhere Sophia was feeling what Maria was experiencing. I dismissed the thought, reasoning that it was unimportant and unlikely. I wasn’t inclined to believe in that sort of thing. But then again, I thought, you never knew.
Gingerly, I carried her into the bathroom, careful to avoid touching the wounds I had inflicted. She jerked as a tear ran across them, and I stopped to wipe her face dry. She nodded silent thanks.
Seating her on the toilet with the lid down, I retrieved the first aid kit I kept there and opened it, moistening a cotton swab with alcohol.
“This will sting,” I warned her, sliding my left hand under her dress and bra to grasp her breast firmly and dabbing the cotton ball across its tip with my right. I looked away to preserve her decency. What a gentleman, I thought. You cut her to ribbons and then worry about her decency. Still, I felt bad, and even worse as I heard her sharp intake of breath. I dabbed the wound a few more times to be certain it would not become infected, and then I bound a flat piece of gauze to it to keep it from chafing. Gently, I slid her bra strap back onto her shoulder. She winced slightly from the movement.
“Going to sting again,” I informed her as I wet another cotton swab. Dragging it over the gashes left by the knife, I gripped her other shoulder tightly as she tensed in pain.
“Try to relax.”
“No, I am,” I said.
The only answer I received was silence.
“The doctor threatened someone that I care for too.”
“Who?” she asked.
“My secretary, Constanzia. I promised her father I’d look after her.”
“Then you’re not the doctor’s henchman?”
“I was hired to retrieve his notebook. He caught me in the act and threatened Constanzia’s well-being if I didn’t help him catch your sister.”
“Did he say why?”
“Only that he needed to know how much she knew about his operations. He promised that he’d leave her alive, but he didn’t say in what condition.”
“Sophia would never tell him anything. She’s too strong.”
“If I broke you as quickly as I did, she’ll have no chance against the doctor.”
“Don’t underestimate her. And don’t think for one second that I’m broken. I still have my training.”
I looked at her.
“You show remarkable resilience. Not ten minutes ago you were a wreck.”
“But now I know you’re on my side. I couldn’t bear the thought of doing it alone.”
“Then it’s fortuitous we met. I will help you find your sister, and you will help me find out what she knows about the doctor. It’s time we got to the bottom of this, and found out just what dark and ugly secrets Mr. Mordred Phain is hiding.”
“I agree. Before we do, though, you should know I could have taken it.”
“I’m sure you could have, my girl. But I think we’re both glad that you didn’t.”
I released her arms and legs, and she stood up and strode confidently out the door.
“Whatever you say, Naissance. For now, we’ll call it even.”