The car door opened with a swoosh. Air blew across my face. Clean air. A hand pushed on my chest and I leaned back. The seat belt was released and a male voice whispered into my ear. “I’ll remove the blindfold now, but your safety depends on you. Do you understand?”
I almost said yes, wanting the blindfold removed, to see Not-Exactly-Lila again, but the night had not given me many choices and this was my chance to plead innocence. It was also something in the man’s voice. It soothed me. As he helped me from the car, I gained an extra second to think. The air was louder and moved faster. “No,” I said confidently. He let go of my wrist. “I don’t understand any of this.”
“I’m removing the blindfold now,” the man said into my ear. “Stay calm and you will be alright.”
“Wait.” It was the beautiful voice of the Younger Ms. Cold Smile. Even though she had to speak over the wind, her words came through like music. “Maybe we should wait for the doctor. He should see him first.”
“The doctor is not coming directly. He wants me to handle this as quickly as possible.” The man’s voice echoed in my head. There was a reason it meant something to me, but I couldn’t place it. The night’s events swirled in my head.
Suddenly, I felt a tug on the blindfold and light flooded my vision. I closed my eyes quickly, but before I could I saw a solitary dark figure on a bright, white background. I squeezed my eyes shut, not wanting to know any more. I already knew too much. I’d witnessed too many things, including murder and terrorism. Things that I could not be allowed to repeat to anyone. I had been kidnapped to keep me quiet.
The thought of Lila lying dead in our hotel room, of seeing Mr. Mercedes’ throat spewing blood over expensive leather upholstery, the heat from the elevator explosion, of Ms. Cold Smile’s brutal attack on the men waiting for me. It was all too much and I wasn’t opening my eyes to witness more. If I saw the man’s face, he couldn’t let me live.
“Open your eyes, Caleb.” It was Not-Exactly-Lila. She put her hands on my shoulders. “You are safe with us.”
I opened them and the light blinded me again. Younger Ms. Cold Smile and Not-Exactly-Lila stood before me. The man was behind them. Slowly, as their images became clearer, I recognized the man. He had knocked on the hotel door as I knelt over Lila’s dead body, he’d given me the address, he’d called the clean up crew. He’d gone through Lila’s pockets. He…
Rage filled me.
I didn’t realize I’d pushed past the two women until the man grabbed me in a bear hug and lifted me off the floor. I struggled to get loose. I wanted to kill him. I wanted to watch him die, just as Mr. Mercedes died, lurching and coughing in a pool of blood.
“I said we should wait.” Her voice brought me back to myself, back to the pointlessness of my fighting this man, back to the reality of my hopeless situation. “We should have waited on the doctor to talk to him.”
“It’s too late now,” Not-Exactly-Lila said coldly. “Edward, put him down. He’s safe here with us and he has to accept that. Do you realize that Caleb?” Her voice was harsh, as if speaking to a child. “You are safe.”
My feet were lowered to the floor, my balance restored. I turned to face her, but said nothing. I didn’t feel safe. Nothing felt safe. I was a prisoner, held in a secret location. Then, something occurred to me. “Why did you blindfold me? He gave me the address and told me to come. He told me to report Lila’s death, to say she did not have it.”
Both women looked at the man. Not-Exactly-Lila spoke. “Is that true? You were at the hotel?”