Fiction: The Art of Mutual Destruction Chapter Forty Nine

Chapter Forty Nine

He’d been walking up and down the city for most of the night and somehow, despite the fact that it was almost dawn, he was still completely unscathed. Naples was the most dangerous city in all of Italy, was in the top ten for all of Europe, and yet he’d been walking around for six hours now and nothing had happened to him.

It was past dawn now. The darker parts of Naples were being put away, retreating from the light to bide their time until night fell again.

Adam debated going back to his little hotel for the day but the scent of freshly made coffee changed his mind for him. He’d get some coffee first. It wasn’t like he had anything pressing to do.

Five minutes later, coffee in hand, he began to make his way back. He’d walked all the way to the other side of the city in his preoccupation and he’d finished the large cup of coffee long before he’d made much progress.

The city got busier as he walked and soon the morning rush was in full swing. Adam enjoyed being able to lose himself amongst the crowd and let his feet guide him while he watched the people milling around him.

What were their lives like? Had any of them ever had to fight for their lives?

He doubted it. They weren’t like him.

Adam watched a young mother lean down to lift her son, dredging up a rusty smile from deep within him as saw the little boy reach out with a chubby hand to tug on one of his mother’s blonde curls and lift it to his mouth.

The colour made him jerk his eyes away, his fingers itching as he remembered other curls that he’d tangled his hands in.

When would she leave him alone?

He turned, and saw something so confusing he initially thought he was somehow hallucinating.

Iman couldn’t remember when last she’d been so tired. She desperately wanted to just collapse onto the nearest soft thing and stay there until her exhaustion had somehow disappeared but she couldn’t get her mind to quiet.

She thought back to the conversation she’d heard that afternoon, trying for the fifth time to puzzle it out. She’d sought out Waseem as Ibrahim had requested and had settled herself in a seat in the corner.

A few minutes later, she’d had the uncomfortable realization that they’d forgotten she was in the room. She’d only caught bits of the conversation but that had been enough to thoroughly confuse and worry her.

She wasn’t sure exactly who or what Waseem was on his way to track down or why the man who’d been a surrogate uncle to her was so upset about it but Waseem wasn’t one to be overly dramatic. If he was this upset… The implications made her stomach twist.

She’d questioned her grandfather once his Second had left but Ibrahim had held firm and refused to tell her a thing.

She looked around the small room she’d been given. Shaida’s mother wasn’t much of a one for ‘clutter’ and the room, while neat and comfortable, was sadly devoid of things for her to fiddle with.

She eyed the lone item on her night stand. A copy of the Quran, in its original Arabic. Shaida had taught her the language – and the basics of Islam – when she’d been tiny but it had been years since Iman had prayed. At least until she’d met Shaida’s mother.

The fussy old woman had left her alone for a while, doubtless due to her daughter insisting. But a week after Iman had arrived, it seemed she’d finally lost her patience. Iman had been painting when Shaida’s mother had walked into her room and asked her point blank why she did not pray.

After listening to Iman’s stuttered response, she’d nodded once and announced that anyone who lived under her roof would pray. Did Iman know how?

Shaida had come in moments later, somehow sensing trouble and had hurried her mother away. Later, she’d told Iman not to feel pressured, that her mother meant well but she could be a bit forceful.

Since then, Shaida’s mother had developed a habit of calling Iman when she herself went to pray in an effort to either guilt her or encourage her into doing it herself.

Seeing no harm in indulging the old lady who – despite admittedly being a bit abrupt – was very sweet, Iman had found herself praying fairly often.

It made her nostalgic for a time when she’d been too little to know just what kind of a world her family lived in and too loved to ever have much to worry over.

She looked around the room again and gave a mental shrug. Her Arabic could use some practising anyway.

Adam began to run, shoving people aside in his haste. He still couldn’t believe what he was seeing, was certain that his mind was playing tricks on him, but he was determined to make sure and if he made a fool of himself in the process, so be it.

She slipped through the crowd faster than he could, her smaller frame far easier to get through the gaps. He almost lost her several times and by the time he’d closed the distance between them he was gasping and sweat was pouring down his face.

Out of shape, he thought in disgust.

He pushed every last bit of strength into his legs, forcing himself forward. He noticed with grim satisfaction that he wasn’t the only one tiring. Her stride had shortened considerably.

He was almost on her.

Almost.

There.

He reached out and grabbed her shoulder, yanking her around to face him.

He wasn’t hallucinating.

She looked just as shocked as he felt and as he stood there, the shock morphed into panic.

Kat?” he whispered, needing to make sure.

Let go of me, Adam. Let go of me now!” Her voice rose. “You need to go. Go now.”

What?” He felt like he was wading through fog.

Let me go,” she said.

No.” The shock was beginning to fade and rage, always close at hand now, had taken its place. “Come with me.” He began to lead her into the closest alley.

Adam, it’s not safe here!” Kat sounded truly afraid.

He looked down at her. “Then tell me where to go. But I’m not leaving you alone without some answers. You owe me at least that.”

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