Fiction: The Art of Mutual Destruction Chapter Thirty Nine

Chapter Thirty Nine

I cannot believe,” Kat began, prying open a tub of ice cream, “that I had to learn from the clean up crew that you killed someone last night. Without any kind of plan, without a go ahead, you just murdered someone and I had no idea until I heard them gossiping about it.”

She stuffed a spoonful of ice cream into her mouth and gestured to him with her spoon. “You look remarkably happy for what you did. I saw the body, you know.”

He deserved it.” He’d deserved worse. For a moment, all Adam could see was Iman, crumpled on the floor and struggling to rise.

Kat dropped her spoon. “You really believe that,” she marvelled. “Did he murder a school of babies?”

Adam looked away, reluctant to tell Kat the truth. It wasn’t his secret to share. “He got what he deserved. That should tell you enough.”

He choked to death on a mixture of his own blood and vomit.”

I know.”

Tell me what happened,” Kat demanded. “I’ve never seen you in a state like this. You don’t regret it at all? What happened to not causing unnecessary pain and suffering?” She’d gotten to her feet and was standing right in front of him, condemnation clear in her eyes.

It wasn’t unnecessary, Kat!” Let go! Iman begged in his mind, sobbing and fighting to get free. Tell her, make her understand.

He opened his mouth.

No. He wouldn’t do that to Iman. He couldn’t do that to Iman.

Kat’s face fell. “I’m gonna go,” she whispered. She lifted her jacket and headed for the door.

Kat, don’t-” He reached for her and she ducked away, shaking her head.

You’ve changed, Adam. And this isn’t a good look on you. Not at all.” The sound of her heels leading her away from his door echoed loudly in the empty apartment.

Adam bit back a curse and collapsed into the nearest chair, burying his face in his hands. A wave of exhaustion hit him and his temples throbbed.

Kat’s reaction shouldn’t have shocked him. But it had. He’d grown so used to her being the one person he could always count on, whose support was a given, who knew him well enough to give him the benefit of the doubt…

It seemed that without him even noticing, that had changed.

And yet, he couldn’t be angry with her.

Memories washed over him. Suddenly, he was fifteen years old again, terrified and raging. He’d just made his first ‘soft-kill’. Ostensibly, a cause for celebration – he was almost ready to start going out on real jobs.

Adam had never felt less like celebrating in his life. His stomach lurched again and he heaved, bringing up nothing. He’d long since emptied his stomach but the cramps hadn’t stopped. He wondered if he’d ever stop feeling sickened by what he’d been forced to do.

That was his only consolation – he’d been forced to do it. When he’d first been brought in front of the stray creature, he hadn’t understood. He’d just been concerned for the poor thing. It wasn’t until Ali had hauled him directly in front of him and handed him a gun that he’d understood.

He was meant to kill this animal. It had been taken off the streets and brought here, chained up so that it couldn’t flee for its life, so that he could kill it and earn the privilege of moving on to killing humans.

He’d refused.

For a moment, there had been relief, as Ali nodded and accepted the gun back from him. Right up until he’d instead turned the gun on Adam, pointing it between his eyes. “You have a choice,” he’d said in that charming voice, “You can kill the dog or I can kill you. What’ll it be?”

Adam had no doubt that he would have done it. It didn’t matter that Adam was his wife’s only child. Ali would have killed him and it wouldn’t even have bothered him enough to wipe the smile from his face.

He’d done it. Had forced himself to look into those innocent, oblivious eyes and watch as the light drained from them.

Ali had clapped him on the back afterwards and congratulated him, as though murdering an innocent was something to be proud of.

Keep it together.”

Adam lifted his head. Kat. He didn’t bother asking how she’d found him. “What do you want?”

You’ve been holed up in here for fifteen minutes. I was starting to get worried.”

I’m not going back out there.”

Kat sighed. “You have to. Just like you had to kill that dog. You don’t have any other choice. None of us do.”

How can you just stand that? Doesn’t it even bother you?”

Kat looked taken aback. “Of course it does. I don’t like all of this any more than you do. But you saw what happened when you tried to refuse. He wasn’t bluffing, you know.”

So, what do we do?” Adam whispered, sagging against the wall. “How do we get out?”

We don’t.” Kat said matter-of-factly. “There’s no way out. All we can do is make sure we don’t become like the rest of them.”

In her eyes, Adam had done just that. He’d killed without being commanded to and just like that, he’d gone from a helpless tool to an active participant.

Kat had only ever been able to live with herself and her guilt by constantly reminding herself that she had no power to change things. She did as she was told and kept herself as far away from the rest of Ali’s killers as she could manage.

Now that he’d lumped himself with the rest of them, she’d stay away from him as well.

He’d just lost his only friend.

The table was still piled high with all the food she’d raided from his fridge and Adam couldn’t stop a fond smile. She always ate when she was nervous. He’d taken to making sure all her favourite things were on hand just in case she decided to escape the compound and camp out with him.

That would never happen again now.

He’d ruined it.

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