“Hey, Adam,” Kat gave him a tight smile. “Can I come in?”
“Actually,” he found himself saying, “I was on my way out.”
Kat looked taken aback. “It’s important,” she countered, a note of urgency in her tone. She looked awful, Adam realized, now that he bothered to look closer. Her hair was a mess and the frown lines at her cheeks and forehead had deepened.
He hesitated, torn, and Kat pressed her advantage. “It’ll only take a few minutes. I don’t have much to say to you.”
Adam couldn’t hide his wince. “Alright,” he agreed reluctantly. “Just a few minutes.”
He couldn’t help wondering as he watched the door swing shut, whether the decision he’d just made was one he’d come to regret soon.
He directed Kat to the kitchen and she took a seat at one of the stools on the island, sinking down into the plush chair with a soft sigh.
“You look terrible, Kat.”
“I feel it,” she said grimly. “You look good. Better than you did when I left you and definitely better than the last time I saw you.”
Why had she said them like they weren’t one and the same? “When was the last time you saw me?” he asked curiously.
Kat reached into her jacket and Adam tensed despite himself. The gun he’d retrieved from its hiding place underneath the little table in the entryway felt cold against his skin. “Relax,” she told him. “If I was going to kill you, I’d just burn this whole place down. I wouldn’t bother coming up to you and shooting.”
“Good to know,” Adam commented, feeling sick.
“Here,” Kat passed him a photograph. “This is what I was talking about.”
It was him, bloody and crumpled on the floor. He looked like a corpse.
“How did you walk away from that?” Kat asked, a thread of worry in her voice.
“I had help.”
“Why did you go after them?”
“Them?” Adam played dumb.
“Them,” Kat repeated. She rattled off five names in quick succession, crossing her arms. “Blackwell, I understood. But the rest of them… what were you thinking? Do you know what you were playing with?”
“I had debts to pay.”
Kat drew back. “You were paid?”
“Other debts,” Adam corrected.
“The Khans. Of course.” Kat scowled. “Do you jump when she says too?”
“Don’t sneer at me, Kat. Even if I did, how is it any better than what you – than what we – did for Ali?”
“It’s not,” Kat admitted, looking downcast. “But how can you be content to trade one master for another?”
“I didn’t,” Adam told her. “It’s funny, I’ve heard a thousand and one stories about Ibrahim Khan and his evil but he’s the only one who didn’t try to kill me and the only one who actually has reason to want to.”
“So these past few months, that’s all you did? Paying debts?” Kat checked.
“Yeah,” Adam said shortly. “I killed six of his people so I got to kill six people of his choosing.”
“Oh,” Kat whispered.
“What did you think I was doing?”
Kat sighed. “I don’t know. Working for Khan? Going on a rampage? He never took credit for the kills. Neither did anyone else. I think I’m the only one who realized you were responsible for all of them.”
“Is that why you came? To judge me?”
“I came to tell you that that photograph reminded Ali you still exist. Since that day – when you found me – I’ve been doing my best to make sure he thinks you’re a non-issue. But that… it reminded him. He’s been focused on hunting Blackwell but now that we know Blackwell is dead… Look, I came here to tell you to be careful. Ali… he’s been,” she shuddered and swallowed hard. “He’s been different. Worse.”
“Kat, do you need-” Adam began to offer, eyeing his old friend worriedly. He hadn’t seen Kat about to lose it like this in so long. Ali must have done something truly awful to shake her like this.
“What? A trade like you?” She shook her head emphatically. “No, thanks. I’ll stick with the monster I know.”
“Thank you for coming. It means a lot.”
That tight, pinched smile she’d worn the whole time eased into something sweeter. “You’re the closest thing I have to family. I had to come.” She drew her jacket close. “I’d better get going.”
Adam walked out with her, pulling the door shut and locking it behind him. She’d begun to walk off while he was busy and he called her name, making her turn. “Be careful,” he pleaded, unable to shake a sense of dread.
“Worry about yourself,” she countered, finally showing a spark of her old fire. “I can handle myself.”
Could she? Adam worried as he watched her disappear. Could she really?
He sighed and turned in the opposite direction. He still needed to find Iman. It had been less than an hour since she’d walked out but it felt much, much longer.
He set off at a run, enjoying the feeling of his muscles working, that feeling of dread still in the pit of his stomach. He shook his head. He couldn’t keep thinking about Kat – he needed to figure out what to do when he found his wife.
Iman had been running for long enough that she’d begun to sweat despite the cold. She panted hard and slowed to a stop. Usually when she ran, she brought along a bottle of water but she’d forgotten it in her rush to be away.
She thought guiltily of Adam. Maybe it was time to go back. She’d just left him there, without even saying goodbye.
She’d just begun the slow jog back home when she felt a prickle in the middle of her shoulder blades.
Iman shook it off as nothing and carried on. Almost unconsciously, she increased her pace, her skin beginning to crawl. She gave into the urge to look back and saw nothing.
Laughing, shaking her head at her own paranoia, she set off again.
It was nothing.