The writhing mass of entangled limbs came crashing down to the floor with an almighty thud.
”Fuck, this bed really IS small!” Evan complained, rubbing his aching back.
”No duh!” Alexi replied, rolling his eyes. “I did warn you about it on Saturday. Twice. Then again yesterday. Thrice...”
“Keeping count, are you?”
“You betcha!” Alexi replied, with a huge grin plastered on his face. “Now let’s go for lucky number 6.” And with that, he got to his feet, his lust-driven empowerment allowing him to easily pull Evan along with him, only to fling him down on the bed. He took a minute to admire the naked body lying down in front of him. He studied every line, every curve, drinking in the image.
“That’s kinda creepy...” Evan said giggling, breaking the spell.
”You staring at me like that...You were drooling for a minute there.”
“Quite possible.” Alexi admitted, shrugging. “But I can’t get enough. Besides...you did it to me as well, at the cabin. So...payback’s a bitch.” And he lunged for Evan, attacking his face, his neck, his chest, kissing, licking, trying to devour him. More, he wanted more. He really could never get enough of it. ’I wonder if this is how drug addicts feel. Christ, if I die from an Evan overdose...what a way to go...’ He took Evan’s right nipple in his mouth and felt the older boy flutter with pleasure. He followed the trail down, along the hard muscles of Evan’s abdomen, planting soft kisses every inch or so. He was there. ’Bingo! Thar’s gold in them thar hills!’ He caressed the treasure, kissing it softly. Over the weekend, he had become accustomed to its shape and taste. Hell, he had become a devout worshipper. It felt so right, doing what he did, offering love and pleasure, and getting it in return. He stopped. He wanted more. He was sure of it. “Evan…” he whispered softly, looking up into his eyes. “Make love to me. I’m yours. Now and forever. Even when you get tired of me…I’ll still be there. I’ll still love you, with every fiber of my being.”
Evan pulled Alexi to him, so that their cheeks rested against each other’s, then he spoke softly into Alexi’s ear. “You idiot. I told you already. I’m never going to get tired of you. You mean too much to me. I don’t know what it is that I saw in you…”
“Ouch!” Alexi answered, reeling as if slapped. “You say the nicest things…”
Evan held him even more tightly. “God, I’m such an idiot. It’s because of you. When I’m around you, I act like a complete moron.”
“Hardy-har-har. Yes. It’s…Fuck, Alexi, I’m just gonna end up sounding like an even bigger idiot. But here goes…What I meant is that the first time I met you, it wasn’t anything specific that attracted me to you. I’ll admit it, I’m a horny guy. I like checking out hot guys. Asses, bulges, cute faces and hot hair or piercing eyes…There’s always that SOMETHING there that catches my eye. But with you…it wasn’t like that. I told you already. I just saw you and…bam! It was like the air itself was shimmering around you or something. When I said I didn’t know what I saw in you, I mean there wasn’t anything specific. Sure, I love your eyes, I love your smile, your messy hair…”
“Yes, yes…I told you already, I‘ve been planning on getting a haircut, but…”
“But…” Evan got back on top of the conversation. “It’s not one thing. It’s the whole picture. And I’m not just talking about your physical appearance here, as nice as that is…Even from that first moment I saw you I could see a part of the inner you. Your soul. Pained, yes, but so beautiful and full of love, and starving for affection. Hell, you keep saying you’re broken, on the inside, as well as the outside. Well, I KNOW I’m fucked up, so maybe I saw something familiar. A broken boy trying to fix another one. I don’t know. But I’m sure of one thing. I fell in love with you that day, and it’s only gotten deeper since then. I’ll never let you go, do you hear me, you beautiful, messed up loon?” He felt the wetness of Alexi’s tears against his own face and increased the pressure of their embrace.
It was Monday evening and the boys finally arrived back in front of the Samuels house, the long weekend over. They both sighed once Evan pulled over the truck.
“Why the hell are we so sad?” Evan asked after a minute of silence. “We should be happy. We had a great weekend, and now that it’s over, we can look back on the fond memories and look forward to creating new ones in the future.”
“Fuck me, you’re romantic.”
“Indeed I am. As for that first thing…Well, I’m gonna let you recuperate for a while, okay?” Evan said, barely containing his laughter.
“What the…? Oh…” Alexi started blushing and Evan started cracking up. “Damn it, stop acting like a silly school girl! Aaahhh!” Alexi covered Evan’s mouth with his own, trying to stop the laughter. Needless to say, it worked. Quite well. So well, in fact, that it took 10 minutes, a knock on the passenger side window and a polite throat clearing coming from outside for them to stop.
“What, you guys are so impatient that you can’t even get in the back seat or something?” Hunter asked, feigning disgust though his eyes gave him away. He was happy. Pleased for Alexi.
“Err…sorry.” Alexi answered sheepishly, but Evan held on to him and pulled him in for another passionate kiss.
“I’m not.” Evan said, smiling. “But he’s right. We’ll have plenty of time. Besides, I think both of us are exhausted right now and we could use some rest…”
Hunter raised an inquisitive eyebrow and his mouth twitched, the corner rising in a smile. “Oh, had a busy weekend, did you? Lots of…strenuous activity?” The smile on his lips was full-on lecherous.
“Yeah, we ran the marathon…” Alexi said, grinning as he got out of the car, grabbed his bag and moved past Hunter, the ‘tap tap tap’ of his cane accompanying him. He stopped a few feet away, gave Evan an over the shoulder wink, then went inside the house, his smile threatening to permanently disfigure him if it got any broader.
“So…I guess everything went well…” Hunter addressed Evan, after shaking his head, amused, at Alexi’s reaction.
“Oh, it went great. It was AMAZING!”
“That’s…nice. But I was more interested in the whole ‘going back to the place where everything bad happened’ thing. Not that I don’t appreciate a good sex story or anything…”
“Oh…” It was Evan’s turn to blush. ‘Damn, when did I become such a big softie?’ “Well, that…It went great as well, I’d say. He’s still got some way to go, don’t get me wrong, but I think he’s almost there. He realizes that he could actually be fooling himself, thinking he’s alright with everything, then exploding later on, but I really think he’s coping well with everything. It’s amazing, really…”
“Amazing again, huh?”
“Well, that’s the only way I can describe him. He seems so fragile at times, Hunter. But, he’s so strong. It’s really unbelievable.”
“I know what you mean. He was so vulnerable at first. Hell, I think he still is, but he’s changed for the better. Opened up, and you’re right about him. And I want to thank you.”
“What on Earth for?”
“You’re obviously the reason he’s doing so well. You’ve been there for him. Loved him. Brought up the beauty in him. You’ve made him happy and, as a result, I get to enjoy this wonderful person as a brother.”
“Well…I think…I think the affection EVERYONE has given him is responsible for it. Me, you, your parents. For the first time in a long, long time, he feels loved. A stable, supporting love. You’re just as responsible as anyone. Maybe more. He told me about that long talk you two had…”
Hunter’s eyes widened in surprise. “HE DID?!”
“Don’t get mad. We talked about a lot of things this weekend. He wanted to show me how great a connection you two created. Why he went running off after you at the cabin. You mean a lot to him, Hunter.”
“He does as well…” Hunter said softly. “I never thought I could accept a replacement brother. Bran was…everything to me.” Evan cringed slightly, realizing how much pain his family had caused this boy in the past and how much more they’d be willing to put him through. “But, I gotta tell you…” Hunter went on, grinning “…he’s not half-bad. Not bad at all…”
“Why, hello, my dear Evan.” Eric said as soon as Evan walked through the front door. Evan instinctively reached for the gun that wasn’t at his side. He couldn’t help it. Someone like Eric doesn’t say stuff like that. ‘Good evening? He hasn’t greeted me with more than a grunt in years. And my dear? What the fuck is going on here?’
“Are you dying? Brain cancer? AIDS? Acute stupidity? This some kind of 12-step program?”
“Now that’s not very nice. I was merely trying to be pleasant. You and me…we’re almost done.”
‘What the fuck does that mean?’ “Oh?” Evan raised an eyebrow.
“Son, you’re 19. Been for a while. You haven’t needed a legal guardian in ages now. I was basically stationed with you because that was my assignment, as long as your father wanted it so. But you’re getting out, aren’t you? You told your father you’re done and he accepted it. So, no more reason for us to be in each other’s faces. We’ll finally be free.” Eric finished, as a menacing smirk appeared on his face.
“Whatever…” Evan said unenthusiastically, though his heart was doing summersaults, for quite a few reasons. Did his father really mean it, then? Would he give him what he required? ‘Freedom?’ And, at the same time, he couldn’t help but feel that something was…off. His spidey sense, he called it. Corny and childish, but he had learned to trust his instincts long ago. It was an essential survival trait. No matter how smart you are, in tight situations, it’s always instinct. Well, that and training. Pure reaction. The constant hard work gives you the ability to respond in force, while your instinct guides you. Yes, Evan trusted his gut. And now it was telling him something was wrong. But, one thing about instinct – don’t let it completely replace your cognitive functions. You have a brain, use it. Instinct is merely a back-up. So, while every muscle in his body tensed, preparing to do battle, his mind took control. ‘Relax. Observe. Listen and watch. If there’s anything wrong, you’ll soon know for sure.’
He left Eric in the living room, looking very pleased with himself, and walked to his bedroom. He stepped inside and immediately locked the door. Not that he was afraid of Eric or his cronies. But growing up in that house as an adolescent was enough for the custom to become ingrained in Evan’s consciousness. He wasn’t afraid, but he still slept better when that door was locked, if only because it constituted an obstacle for whoever might burst in that might provide him the second or two needed to pull out a gun and defend himself...
‘I’m not gonna miss the paranoia, that’s for sure.’ Evan thought, amused. Alone and free. Could it really be happening? He’d need to get a job, he didn’t want his dad to give him anything from that point on. His debt was paid. He would not be dragged back into it. He’d prove that to his dad. He’d fight and struggle like any normal young adult. He thought of Alexi and he closed his eyes, feeling content. ‘It’ll be worth it. He’s worth it.’ He drifted off to sleep, fully clothed, on top of the covers.
He awoke feeling the warm light of the morning sun caressing his chin. He needed to shave before school. Alexi had suggested a goatee, but he always hated them. He sat up on the bed and stretched, yawning. He got a towel and a fresh change of clothes and moved towards the door, intent on a hot shower to go along with the shave. He opened the door and KNEW it was coming.
Even as he extended his left leg to take a step outside his room, he dropped to the floor, actually lunging towards the opposite wall. He hit it with a thud, as the loud bang of a gun going off resounded from above his head. He kicked up and almost crushed the arm holding the pistol, between his boot and the wall. He was glad he had fallen asleep fully dressed, boots included. Hicks…or was it Radnick - he just couldn’t tell them apart – screamed in agony, even as the gun fell to the floor. The hallway was narrow. But tight quarters were okay with Evan. He jumped his attacker, slamming the side of his head against the wall. Hicks…or Radnick lashed out with his foot, trying for Evan’s knee. Evan drew his foot back and the kick hit only empty air. Evan took advantage and brought his knee into the man’s groin. Cheap shot. Dirty. And something guys just don’t do to each other. But Evan hated fighting fair. Fair fights are dangerous. He didn’t even allow the man to double over in pain. He just grabbed his already injured hand and applied more pressure, twisting it. The man fell to his knees. Simple reaction, really. The human body follows the pain. If you grab a man’s hand and twist, also pressing down, his body will instinctively follow the motion, trying to limit the pain. Once again, Evan’s knee came up and hit the former Marine in the face, with the now familiar crunch of a broken nose.
“Fuck!” Evan screamed in frustration. The fucker lost his consciousness. He debated with himself whether or not he should wake the man with a new stab of pain. He finally settled on a bucket of cold water.
Hicks…or Radnick groaned, twitching. “Ugh…Fuck, my hand.”
“Hicks?” Evan asked.
“Radnick, you need to listen to me very carefully right now, okay?” Radnick focused his eyes on Evan, but remained silent. “I need you to understand, Radnick. If you don’t answer me, I’m going to kill you, okay?” Silence. “Well, I suppose it’s NOT okay. But the point it, I WILL do it. And before I do…” he stepped on Radnick’s good hand “…well, I’m sure Eric has shared at least SOME stories of me. I’m quite good at what I do. I don’t particularly want to show you, but…”
“What do you want to know?” Radnick mumbled.
“I suppose we can start with the whole assassination plot. Sound good to you?”
“Mmm…Well, you see, nothing personal. Eric told me what to do. Told us all. I don’t ask no questions. He just said you needed to be taken out of the picture.”
“Why? Especially now, when we’re going our separate ways? I want nothing to do with him and the…family business.”
“I…I don’t know.”
Evan applied more pressure via his foot.
“FUCK! Stop that, you cocksucking asshole!” Evan kept on pressing down. “It’s…it’s the kid. They want you out of the way, not to interfere…”
“Does my father have NOTHING to say about it? He told me he’d back off Alexi as long as I don’t get involved in Hunter’s situation.” Radnick was quiet once more. “He’s going after Alexi. Is it just Eric, then? Why?”
“No idea, but does it matter?”
“Probably not. FUCK!” Evan yelled. He grasped Radnick by his shirt collar and dragged him into the bathroom. He pushed Radnick next to the pipes, up along the wall. “I should kill you right now, but I’m feeling magnanimous.” He punched the man hard in the face. Once, twice, three times and Radnick became a limp rag doll on the floor. Evan left the bathroom and returned a minute later, with a rope. He tied the man to the pipes and hoped they wouldn’t be too rusty. ‘Not that I expect him to be up to pulling pipes out of the wall anyway.’ He kicked Radnick in the side once more and rushed outside to the garage, thinking furiously.
It was 7:30 AM. Alexi might not have left for school yet. Evan pulled out his phone and dialed. No answer. Finally, it went to voice mail, and Evan screamed in rage and annoyance. He took a few steadying breaths and dialed once more, pleased he had the foresight to gather all the information he could about the Samuels, including phone numbers. A woman answered.
“Hello.” Came Dana’s voice.
“Dana, it’s Evan.” He could picture her frowning at the sound of his voice. “Listen, this is crucial. Where’s Alexi?”
“On his way to school, of course. You should follow suit, you know. I don’t want you being a bad influ…”
“Just…shut up, will ya? This is serious. Is he alone?”
“No. My husband’s taking him. They should be there in a few minutes. What’s this all about? I won’t have you talking like that to me without an explanation.”
“Doesn’t he have his phone? Nevermind. Call them. Call your husband. Tell them to turn around. Don’t go anywhere near the school.”
“Trust me. Alexi’s in danger. So’s Hunter.”
“Hunter? What are you talking about, damn it?”
“Fuck! My dad…He’s Myke Henson!”
Dana gasped loudly on the other end. “What did you do, you fucker?”
“Nothing. I swear. I’ve been trying to protect Alexi, even Hunter, but something’s happening. Neither of them need to be left out of sight.”
“Hunter’s with Vince. He needed to go to the dentist this morning.”
“Okay, so they’re both safe. As long as you keep them from going anywhere near that school. I’m sure that’s where they’d make their move. Call your husband. Right now.”
“Okay, okay. What about you?”
“Me?” Evan grinned. “I’m going to school. Don’t want to be late.” He hung up and got on his bike.
Dale Walker was not a morning person. He HATED waking up early and he always needed at least 4 cups of coffee to get himself started. Which, of course, was an inconvenience, since most of his jobs were in the morning. People love schedules. Sure, there are the occasional rebels, but it’s in human nature to have stabilizing factors. Something to guide you. Schedules work that way. Knowing each day, ahead of time, what you’re supposed to do provides stability and comfort. So, if you study people enough, you learn all about their schedules. And most of his targets were always so predictable. Security is always tight as they leave their homes, that’s a given. They alternate routes and change vehicles, but even that rotation is on a schedule. And, most importantly, once you know where they’re headed, you have them. That’s what he liked and what he knew best. Go for them in those last few yards. Which, of course, brought up the whole morning situation. Most people tend to get up and go about their schedules early in the morning, damn them. He needed to be at their destination when the sun rose.
He looked at the picture once again. He never really had any qualms when it came to a job, but he always felt just a small twinge of…something when it was a kid. Regret? Maybe. ‘This kid’ll never get to experience all of life’s joys.’ He adjusted his scope. ‘Then again, there’s the pain part that comes with joy. So I’ll be doing him a favor.’ He studied the picture again. Those green eyes were mesmerizing. He glanced at his watch. 7:55. ‘Any second now.’ He breathed deeply, relaxing his muscles. He peered through the scope, studying the crowds of students going into the school. He was becoming entranced with what he had to do. He might not have been a morning person, but he liked his job. And he was good at it, so when it had to be done, nothing else mattered.
He thought he heard something. But he was too focused on what he was seeing, and the sound was faint. Probably rats. Or maybe a pigeon. He had seen plenty of pigeons on that roof, though they had mostly stayed away since he took up his position. There it was again. ‘Footsteps?’ He raised his head just an inch and tried to turn around. He felt the hot sting on the back of his neck, then the knife sunk in and it was dark.
Evan knocked on the Samuels’ door. Well, knocking is such a mild term. He…pummeled on the door. Dana answered, a distressed look on her face. The expression immediately turned into a scowl. She hesitated for a second, then seemed to make a decision and invited him in.
“Where are they? Are they okay? Are they here?”
“Evan, is that you?” came Alexi’s voice from the living room. “What’s going on?” he stumbled into the hallway.
“Yes, I am. But what’s happening? Dana wouldn’t tell me anything.”
“I…God! I’m sorry, Alexi…it’s…my dad.”
“What? I thought you said you had a legal guardian, no dad.”
“It was just a lie. All, a fucked up, twisted lie, concocted by my dad, because he wanted a good cover for me.”
“For what? I don’t understand…”
“Fuck…My dad is his rival.” Evan said, pointing to Sam, who had just joined them.
Alexi stared at him in complete silence, then he glanced at Dana, who had crossed her arms on her chest and stared at the floor. “You knew about this?” he asked her.
“No. Not until this morning, though I knew something was up, from digging in his past a bit.”
“This…this shit isn’t happening.” Alexi started laughing. “Come on. This is a joke. Divine Candid Camera or something. God’s playing a joke on me.” He continued laughing, until the tears came. Evan moved to cradle him in an embrace, but Alexi pushed him away. “So that’s why you were interested in me? Your dad told you to get in tight with me, get some inside information or something? Play the fag to get what you need, then…what? Dump me? Kill me? Kill everyone here? WHAT?!” Alexi yelled, sobbing.
“No, that’s not it.” Evan said, and he grabbed Alexi tightly, not letting go even as the boy started pounding his fists against his chest, trying to get away. “I won’t lie. My father did want me to get close to Hunter last year, and he did see you as a new chance, but I didn’t. Everything I told you, about how I feel, it’s true. The moment I laid eyes on you, I knew I couldn’t do what he wanted me. I knew I could never do anything for him, because it would further degrade me and I wouldn’t be worthy of you. I love you, Alexi. It’s why I’m telling you this now, why I told Dana, why I’ve been there with you every step of the way. I love you and I promised you, remember? I’ll always protect you.”
Finally, after a few more minutes of whimpering, Alexi settled down, his face buried in Evan’s neck. “I want to believe you. I want to believe you love me. I don’t care about what you did, but I couldn’t handle it if I knew it was all a lie.” He whispered.
“It wasn’t.” Evan pulled away, so as to look Alexi in the eyes. “I love you. I can’t say it any other way. Those three words mean everything to me right now. It’s all I have. I. LOVE. YOU.”
Alexi smiled and the two of them melted into a deep kiss. There was no passion involved. Just affection, trust and understanding. When they broke apart, they realized they were alone in the hallway, Sam and Dana having moved back into the living room. They joined them, sitting in adjoining chairs, their hands interlocked. Dana smiled, but Sam remained pensive. Finally, he spoke.
“You said your father wanted you to get close to Hunter. Why?”
Evan shifted nervously in his chair a bit, but he understood there was no going back. He had chosen a side. And it was next to Alexi. If that included the Samuels and betraying his father completely, so be it. “He said that killing one another is stupid. He wants to kidnap him. Work a deal with you, which would not involve any bloodshed. But he has some kind of partner who feels that wiping you all out is the only way to go or something.” He sighed. “Damn it, my life’s so fucked up.”
“I’m in no position to judge.” Sam replied, smiling. “So, if he wants him alive, are the guys who attacked you and Alexi, and all three of you at the cabin…were they sent by this partner?”
“Fuck, I don’t know. I guess so. Something’s really up. Eric, he’s the guy I’ve been living with, he was my dad’s right-hand man before I came along…He’s stirring shit up. I don’t know what’s happening. And I doubt my father does either. He had a sniper waiting for Alexi at the school.”
“WHAT?!” Dana jumped to her feet.
“Don’t worry. I took care of it. Even if Alexi was safe, I couldn’t leave him walk away. He’d just try again. So…”
“…you took care of it?” Sam asked softly.
“Is that the kind of thing you did for your father?” Sam asked. Evan remained quiet. “I see. Well, this is a real mess. Dana, we need to clean up there. I’ll call to check up on Vince and Hunter. They were close to the dentist’s office earlier, but I think it’d be best if they came back, even if I feel the boy’s safe with Vince. Yes, that’s what we should do.” Both Sam and Dana left the room, leaving the two boys staring at each other.
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” Alexi asked.
“Because you’d have reacted the same way then as you did now. You’d think I was just using you. I was going to tell you eventually, once I’d proven my love to you…” Alexi squeezed his hand and Evan sighed. “I’m sorry. About everything. You deserve so much better than this…all of it. But…even with all this shit, I’m grateful. Because you came into my life. It’s stupid and selfish, I know. You’ve suffered more in less than 16 years than most people in a lifetime, and you deserve to be happy, but I just can’t help but feel grateful, because… because you’re good for me.”
“I wouldn’t change a thing, Evan. I’d take all this crap all over again, as long as you’re included in the deal. I need you too, Evan. We’re good for each other, as fucked up as we both are.” he beamed, then leaned in for a kiss, but Sam interrupted them, rushing into the room.
“What’s the matter?” Alexi asked, taking in his stricken appearance.
“It’s…Hunter. Neither he nor Vince are answering. It’s not like them, especially Vince. Something’s wrong. God…not again. Please, God!” he collapsed on the floor and started moaning. Both Evan and Alexi remained glued in place, not sure what to do, how to comfort the man.
Evan turned to Alexi once again. “They wouldn’t kill him.”
“You said your dad wouldn’t, but this partner. And Eric…” Alexi said, turning pale, worry evident in his voice.
“I have an idea of how we can make sure. Are you with me?”
“Always.” They got up and left, Sam still sobbing on the floor, Dana probably still on the phone. It would be the two of them. Stupid, reckless, and they both knew it wouldn’t be any other way.
“What…what do you want?” Radnick asked nervously, his eyes darting from Evan to Alexi and back again.
“I told you everything I know.”
“I don’t believe you. Now, I’m sure you have SOME idea of what I did for my father. Are you sure you want to go that route? You’re still in relatively good shape. I’ll let you leave, your limbs no worse than they are now.”
“Fuck you! I’m done talking.” Radnick spat.
“Suit yourself.” Evan pulled off Radnick’s boots and socks. “Last chance.” Radnick remained silent and Evan shook his head. Alexi handed him the hammer. Radnick roared in pain as he stared at the destruction. Two of his toes resembled nothing as much as ground beef. Extremely bloody ground beef. “Still not in a talkative mood?” Radnick moaned, but said nothing else. The hammer came down once more. When Radnick stopped screaming, Evan pulled his head back by the hair, so as to stare up at him. “This…isn’t going to get any more pleasant. And I don’t have time to fuck around. Tell me everything you know about Eric’s plans. Did he go after Hunter or was it my father? Is Hunter alive? If so, where is he?” Radnick shook his head, groaning.
Evan moved next to Alexi, who was standing in the doorway, looking like he might throw up. “You okay?” Evan asked. Alexi shook his head. “I’m sorry. But it’s the only way. It’s…the only thing I know. But this isn’t working. I could keep going, but he could go into shock, and I need him conscious to answer questions. I don’t have time to pace myself.”
Evan grimaced. “Fill the tub.”
Darkness. The sound of dripping water. The smell of gasoline. The damn sack over his head was so itchy and smelled horrible! ‘You’re tied to a chair, with a bag over your head and you’re complaining that it’s not comfortable enough? Good one!’ Hunter thought.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
Movement. A whispered conversation.
“Who are you? What do you want? Is Vince alright?”
A light chuckle.
“Please, let me go. Why are you doing this? Is it because of my father? I’m sure he’ll pay you whatever you want. Please, just let me go.”
“Are…are you going to kill me?”
“Shh…It’s alright, Hunter. Everything will be just fine.” Came a soft reply.
Evan plunged Radnick’s head into the cold water and held his flailing limbs down. After a few seconds, he pulled him up once more. “This is only going to get harder. Please, just tell me where Hunter is.”
Radnick spat at him. “You’ll kill me once I tell you.”
“Perhaps. But drowning is a pretty horrible way to go, I hear…” He dunked Radnick once more.
“So, how is this going to work, exactly?” Alexi asked.
“Oh, it’s easy.” He pulled Radnick back up, let him take a breath then, without talking to him again, plunged his head down once more. “See, you put them under the water for 20-30 seconds a few times. Warm up, as it were. Just about everyone can take that amount of time submerged, no problem. See, he’s barely fighting anymore. He’s getting used to it.” He pulled Radnick up, then pushed him down again. “It’s like you’re setting a limit to which they’re getting accustomed. Then…you start pushing the limit. Instead of 30 seconds, you keep them under for 40.” Radnick started struggling once more, so Evan pulled him up after a few more seconds. “Still got nothing? Okay, down you go, then.”
He turned his attention to Alexi once more. “You keep pushing the limit, you don’t let them get comfortable with it again. Sure, he can take 40, then 50, 60, a lot of people might take even more than that. But you’re showing them that you’re prepared to push the envelope. You’re not willing to let them adjust anymore, and you’re showing them you don’t have a safety margin. You want answers, and you’re prepared to kill for them.” Radnick resurfaced once more, this time having taken in a few mouthfuls of water. “Hope you’re thirsty.” He dunked him again, pressing down harder this time. “Most people crack then, when they realize you’re not pulling back. When that happens, you actually don’t even have to push anymore. Panic sets in. So, whereas they might have withstood a minute under, now that they know you’re gonna go even further, they start struggling sooner, and that cuts down on their time more. See?” Radnick was flailing wildly. “I say…10 more seconds and a few good gulps and he’ll be ready.”
Sure enough, when he came up once more, Radnick started screaming. “ALRIGHT! Stop! He’s alive…for now!”
“Where is he?”
“Eric has him. The warehouse outside town. You know the one.”
“Hmm…How many people?”
“I don’t know.” Evan made to push him under the water again. “No, wait! I’m telling the truth. Eric has two or three that I know of, but there’s the other guy, and I don’t know how many he has. Not many, I think.”
“Well, it only makes sense. If he had the men, he’d have done it all by himself sooner.”
“Who is this guy?”
“I don’t know. I only heard Eric talking to him on the phone. He’s high up with Samuels. That’s all I know. I swear.”
“And my father? Is Eric going after him as well?”
“That’s the plan.”
“Thank you.” Evan pulled out the knife that had already tasted blood that morning and cut a deep gash across Radnic’s neck. The man collapsed into the bathtub, the water quickly turning red.
Evan steadied himself once more, then walked out of the room, taking Alexi’s hand and pulling him along. “You okay with all of this?”