Episode 18

“This is the main floor,” Karl Tomlin was saying. “This is the nerve center of our agency, where all the big stuff happens.”
            Jacob could indeed see it was where lots of big things happened – namely, the rather overweight-looking men in white shirts and ties that milled around playing with computers. He reflexively ran a hand briefly over his own stomach, grateful for the rigorous physical training he’d taken to get here. Obviously none of these desk whales were field agents.
            That already put him a step above them; Jacob liked being a step above people. It gave him an edge.
            “And over here,” Tomlin continued, gesturing him towards a room predominantly made out of glass walls, “is the conference room. This is where…ah, I see he’s already there! Come on, Mr Aldente, and meet Director Ashcroft.”
            There was indeed a lean, well-dressed man with precision-combed brown hair sitting at the elaborate glass conference table inside. Jacob wondered for a moment just how much glass this place was made out of; they’d be screwed if an opera singing terrorist group got inside.
            Tomlin opened the door. “Director? This is Jacob Aldente – new Agent, fresh out of basic.”
            The man looked up from the data display on the table and smiled warmly at Jacob. “Ah, good to finally meet you.” He stood and extended a hand. “I’m Director Damian Ashcroft. Welcome to CRUD.”
            Jacob giggled internally – he still couldn’t get over that acronym. He accepted the hand and shook it. “Pleasure to meet you, Director.”
            “Damian is fine.” His smile showed a display of perfect white teeth in deference to the dental hygiene Jacob usually associated with British people. “So, I imagine this is all a lot to take in, isn’t it?”
            “It’s a bit overwhelming, but I’ll get used to it,” Jacob replied, feeling a lot like a wide-eyed teenage receiving his first job – which wasn’t too far from the truth. “Way better than my last gig.”
            Tomlin flinched a little at the word ‘gig’ – apparently colloquial language was frowned upon – but Damian didn’t react negatively. Instead he nodded. “Yes, I’d heard the Australian security division was a bit sore to let you go.”
            Sore was an understatement; his former boss had insinuated he’d alter Jacob’s birth details to end up banning him from returning to Australia later, an insinuation that had been quashed when Jacob revealed the recording device hidden in his lapel. He was always prepared for everything.
            “The boss took it a bit hard,” he admitted, “but he’ll get over it.”
            Damian’s smile turned into a fiendish grin. “He’d better. I know the old bastard – delightful fellow once he’s got a few cognacs inside him. So,” he gestured to the table, “shall we get down to business?”
            He turned to Tomlin. “Karl, would you mind summoning the rest of the primary team, please?”
            Tomlin nodded and wordlessly left the room. It didn’t take him long to bring the other team members in. Jacob had already met a few of them during initial orientation; Ash, a woman with no last name and a penchant for squeaking frequently; Mary Chestnut, equestrian fanatic and owner of CRUD stallion Coconut; Glen Gardner, RnD department head and, from what others had told Jacob, a bit of a loudmouth; Brandon Spanner, caretaker of the motor pool and the team’s only Canadian agent; Dac Rogers, team leader, fellow Australian and a man with what Jacob could only describe as an action hero voice; Anna Farraday, neuroscience expert and a crack shot with a sniper rifle.
            Rounding out the team was fellow neophyte Brendan Brolland, a New Zealand native who’d come over from a Wellington private security firm. He and Jacob had gone through training together, and had formed something of a bond; they’d seemed to have similar tastes in humour, something the other trainees hadn’t engaged with.
            He sat next to Jacob and gave him a fond slap on the back. “How’s it going, bro? Like what you’re seeing so far?”
            Jacob’s eyes met Farraday’s; the raven-black hair framed a delicate oval face that he suddenly felt compelled to go and kiss. First day nerves, that’s all this is. Making you think stupid things, you idiot.
            “Yeah,” he replied to Brendan as Farraday flashed him a smile, “I do.”
“I feel I should warn you, again,” Anna said slowly, propping herself on her forearms under the bedcovers, “that I am not a ‘smoke after sex’ kind of lady. I figured after a year and a half you’d know that by now.”
            Jacob took a long puff on the cigar, lying naked on his back next to her. “Cigar smoke is markedly different to cigarette smoke, my dear. For one thing, only classy people smoke cigars.”
            She laughed. “Since when have you been classy? Did you stop hanging out with Brendan?”
            He shook his head, speaking around the cigar as he placed it between his teeth. “Never in a million years. We’re joined at the testicles.”
            “That is quite possibly the most disgusting, mannish thing you’ve ever said to me.”
            He turned his head to the side, looking at her plaintively. “Obviously you haven’t been around me when I have a drink or two. I can get a bit crass. Apparently ladies love that kind of thing.”
He tried to emulate Damian’s fiendish British grin, but judging by Anna’s unrestrained giggles afterwards he guessed that he’d failed. She took a moment to straighten herself. “Alright, time to get dressed. We’ve got a South American dictatorship to unseat.”
            Now was the right time; Jacob gently put a hand on her arm as she started to rise. “Wait a sec, I’ve got something for you.” He gently put the cigar on the ashtray next to him – carefully, so he could smoke it a bit later – and reached into the bedside table’s drawer. He pulled out a small, blue-felted box.
            Anna’s eyes immediately widened, just as Jacob had known they would. “Is that…”
            She trailed off as he slowly opened it, revealing the two-carat solitaire ring inside. It was a bright yellow gold band that played host to a white gold claw, clenching the diamond between its points like he’d had the cigar in his teeth.
            Anna was speechless. Jacob took the opportunity to ask the age-old question, the cliché that he knew never went out of fashion. “Anna Farraday,” he said slowly, trying to keep his heart below his throat, “will you wear this piece of bling for me? Coz, y’know, it’s kinda pretty…and you’d suit it really well.”
            She burst out laughing; Jacob knew another woman might’ve figured him to just be glib or deflective, but she knew his humour inside-out now. She knew what he’d really meant. She still laughed, tears in her eyes, as she took the ring from its box and slid it onto her finger.
            She fixed Jacob with an earnest, loving look as she put the ring box on the bed and took his hand between hers, keeping the ring hand on top. “Yes,” she said simply. “I’ll marry you, you great galoot.”
            The rest of the day was something of a blur for Jacob; he remembered the briefing, the name of the dictator they were supposed to kill, and the rainbow-flavoured ice-cream they got from Belinda in the cafeteria. But apart from that he spent the entire twenty-four hour period in a dreamy haze, realising that he was now engaged. He had a fiancé.
            It was the best birthday present he thought he’d ever been able to give her.
Operation Catastrophe was the brainchild of a Sri Lankan rebel leader named Valagamba, after one of the old kings of the country. His apparent aim was to seize control of the country through mass panic triggered by the destruction of national landmarks, after which he would appear – with his millions of dollars in stolen funds – as a proponent of ‘reconstructive efforts’. Over time he would exert greater control over Sri Lanka’s infrastructure by using his goodwill to spread agents throughout every level, until he eventually had complete control over the region.
            Brendan thought it was one of the most roundabout plans he’d ever heard of, but then he wasn’t a patient Sri Lankan rebel leader. Contrarily, he was an exuberant, violent New Zealander with a penchant for blowing stuff up.
            Today, though, he was on sniper duty with Anna, so the blowing stuff up would be reduced to a minimum. The two of them lay next to each other in the trees on a hill overlooking the Bogoda Bridge. The Bridge was a relic from the First Century, and Valagamba’s plan was to plant charges end to end before blowing it, as Damian had put it, ‘to smithereens’.
            After wondering for a full three hours what exactly a ‘smithereen’ was, Brendan had found himself on a stealth chopper to Sri Lanka. It was hot, slightly smelly and the grass made him itchy in very uncomfortable places – plus he’d had his underwear pinching into his rear since they got down on the ground.
            If there was one thing Brendan absolutely did not do when present with a lady, it was rearrange his underwear.
            Anna was tracking a quartet of rebels making their way towards the Bridge from the opposite end to them. Her radio was patched into the ‘ground crew’; Jacob, Mary, Glen and Ash. Dac was part of the quartet, disguised as an African mercenary and leading the other three rebels to the Bridge. The plan was for Dac to ‘survive’ an attack from opposing forces, then retreat to Valagamba – with surveillance footage from the incident – in order to better gain his trust and subsequently uncover the full extent of his operation.
            Brendan knew this was only the opening salvo, and the last thing he needed was a godawful pinch in his nethers.
            Since Dac was effectively incommunicado, Anna was on point. “All points, targets approaching.” Her voice was calm and steady and she looked through the scope. “Clean-up on approach?”
            Jacob replied, all business. “Affirmative. Good luck, Overwatch.”
            Brendan could see Glen’s leg dangling below the Bridge support where he clung. Bloody idiot. “Gardner, take your leg up.”
            The leg jerked as Glen responded. “What?”
            “Your leg is dangling down,” Brendan explained tersely. “Put it up, bro.”
            “What was that?” Glen sounded genuinely confused. “Your signal’s a bit choppy, Overwatch.”
            “I said put your damn leg up, Gardner!” Brendan hissed as loudly as he possibly could.
            He heard Glen give a muted chuckle. “All you had to do was ask, bro. Took you this long.”
            Brendan moved the rifle a little so that, if necessary, his shot would take out Glen’s foot just above the ankle. Just in case.
            The quartet got to the center of the Bridge. Dac looked around for any interlopers – looking directly into Brendan’s scope for a second – then signalled to the other three that everything was alright. They started unloading the charges.
            Anna was quick on the trigger. Her first shot nailed a rebel in the head, blowing out most of his skull and throwing his corpse like a ragdoll over the side of the Bridge. Her second shot pegged another rebel in the gut, slamming his body into one of the upper Bridge supports.
            Brendan aimed at the third while she took down the first two. He was about to fire when the stupid bastard unloaded a semi-automatic and started firing wildly in their direction.
            Brendan snorted. “Come at me, bro.”
            A bullet then chose that moment to enter his rifle scope, make its way towards his eye and swiftly blast its way out to the back of his skull. His head jerked backwards from the impact as he fell sideways, dead within seconds.
            It was some time before he was revived; the bullet had lodged in the sweet spot in the back of his brain that meant he couldn’t regenerate on his own. Anna had pulled it from out of the back of his head, allowing him to reassert himself. By then, the skirmish was over.
            He massaged the rapidly-closing wound, looking up at her. “Did we win, eh?”
            Anna nodded, looking off into the distance at something. “Yeah, we won. Dac got out ok.”
            Brendan nodded, gingerly getting to his feet. “Good-o. We need a bit of victory around here, eh bro?”
            Anna didn’t answer, and Brendan turned to see what she was staring at. Jacob and Mary, covered in blood and still holding their machetes, were giving each other celebratory smiles. By the look on her face, Anna was obviously not pleased.
            “They did really well,” she admitted, watching them cautiously. “The third guy got into a knife fight with them after you got hit. I couldn’t snipe him without hitting Dac. They…they were really in sync.”
            Brendan knew where that line of thought was going, and shook his head emphatically – almost immediately wishing he hadn’t, as the ache in his head flared up afresh. “Don’t worry about that, Anna. He married you, not here, eh? Nothin’ to be worried about.”
            Anna nodded slowly, holding her rifle a little tighter than would be normal. “Yeah, you’re right.”
            Brendan could tell from her tone that she didn’t think he was. That worried him.
Three months of marriage counselling and living apart had definitely taken its toll on Jacob and Anna, at least in terms of unit cohesion.
            Mary’s status as ‘the other woman’ meant the group now had three people who could only awkwardly speak to each other in briefings and on operations. It made socialising at the bar after work very difficult, at least from Dac’s perspective. He couldn’t have his team being this way; it was why he fully advocated the policy of no inter-office dating.
            Last time he’d let that happen he’d ended up making a mess of things with Fiona Florentine. That would not end well if they ever met up again.
            He knew Jacob loved Anna, but he also loved Mary. For some reason he just couldn’t reconcile the two. Even if polygamy wasn’t punishable by death these days, Dac still figured Jacob would only want one. If he was in this position, Dac knew who he’d pick.
            The job. It was always the job that he cared about most.
            It was probably for the best that Anna was out on a solo assignment right now. She’d been looking for a while like she needed more space than she was getting. Dac knew the feeling – once, when he’d been going particularly stir-crazy, he’d gone off on a sabbatical to Japan to hunt corrupt corporate executives. He’d figured it was as good a time as any to try out the fourth edition of his quote book.
            Man, what a weekend that had been.
            Jacob sat alone in the conference room, flicking through surveillance channels and news reports to try and find something to take his mind of the situation. Dac figured what he needed was a good old fashioned turkey shoot at the Ranch across town. If nothing else it’d give him something else to do with his hands.
            “You alright, buddy?” Dac asked as he stepped inside the conference room.
            Jacob’s voice was morose. “Yeah. Just channel surfing.”
            Dac took a seat opposite him. “You’ve got to get out there and do something. You’re negativing up the whole place.”
            “Is that even a word?”
            Dac blinked. “What?”
            “Negativing.” Jacob flicked to a Serbian news report about a spontaneous oil well that, defying science and logic, had somehow erupted underneath the President’s mansion. He changed the channel after a moment. “Sounds like something out of a Joss Whedon show.”
            “Well I typed it into Microsoft Word once, and it didn’t get a red squiggly line, so, y’know…” Dac trailed off, trying to think of something insightful to say as team leader. “Look, I need you at your best for when we find the next big threat. Moping around the conference room won’t let you keep your edge.”
            “You mean the edge that I used to draw a clear division in my happy, three-year marriage?” Jacob asked sardonically, now watching a Russian news broadcast about a tidal wave that had demolished Red Square and deposited fifty million trout all across Moscow – again, in complete defiance of science and logic. “Is that the edge I’m supposed to keep?”
            Dac frowned, trying a different tactic. “How’s Mary?”
            Jacob’s eyes moved fractionally to glance sidelong at Dac. “What do you mean?”
            “I mean, how’s she taking all this?” Dac asked, as politely and un-judgmentally as he could. “It’s gotta be just as rough on her as it is for you and Anna.”
            Jacob’s eyes returned to the surveillance screen, his tone going flatter than it already was. “She’s fine.”
            Dac figured he wasn’t going to get anything comprehensive out of him now. If his influence as team leader wouldn’t throw Jacob out of this funk, he knew Damian would – the Brit could get mean when he wanted to. He got up from his seat and headed for the door wordlessly, leaving Jacob to his news reports.
            He’d gotten to the door when Jacob called his name, his tone sounding worried. Dac turned to see the video Jacob had highlighted. It was a black screen with the words “ATTENTION: CRUD AGENCY”, followed by a countdown timer. It had ten seconds left.
            He immediately retrieved his radio, settling into action-hero-mode. “Director Ashcroft, it’s Dac. Conference room, ASAP.”
            It didn’t take long for Damian to get there, and he wasn’t alone; the rest of the team was there, including Mary, and the new agency lawyer, Lonie something-or-other. Dac made a mental note to officially welcome her and memorise her name once whatever this was had finished.
            They all stepped inside, Damian taking point. “What’s going on, chaps?”
            Dac pointed silently at the countdown as it reached zero, blinking a few times before removing the words from the screen. The image was then replaced by a figure sitting in a steel chair, their head covered by a black sack. Dac could tell by the figure that it was a woman.
            Intuition told him who it was before the sack got lifted by another figure standing behind her.
            “Dear Counterinsurgency Reliant Upon Diversity,” said a deep, male voice. His black-coated body was visible but his head was above the frame. “My name is Doctor Dream. I’m afraid I’ve caught your associate here,” he gestured to Anna, sitting in the chair and looking like she’d taken a few bruising hits to the face, “and I intend to kill her. This is nothing personal on her part, or on yours, but she simply stumbled upon my operation. I cannot have any loose ends, you see.”
            Anna’s terrified eyes flashed wide in horror once right before the male figure retrieved a long, cruel-bladed knife from his pocket. In the blink of an eye he had plunged it deep into Anna’s neck.
            Dac clamped a hand to his mouth in shock as the rest of the room reacted similarly. His gut roiled as the figure very, very slowly twisted the knife in its wound a full three-hundred-and-sixty degrees while Anna’s mortified eyes stared at them. Her irises rolled up into her head and the knife returned to its original angle, then started cutting down slowly.
            Dac could see Jacob sitting, unmoving, his knuckles going white and his whole body trembling. The knife had made its way down to her collarbone before Glen ran out of the conference room, clutching a hand to his mouth to keep vomit down. Damian was already on comms, trying to get a fix on where this was all happening.
            The figure left the knife stuck inside Anna’s corpse at the collarbone before returning to speak to the captive audience. “Let this be a warning to you, my friends. Stray not into my operations again, or you will suffer the consequences.”
            The image disappeared, and almost immediately the entire room exploded into action. Brandon was already getting in touch with the motor pool, mobilising whatever aircraft were available. Brendan was calling the quartermaster. Ash was running a search on Doctor Dream through whatever engines she could use. Jacob was breathing heavily, clenching his hands into fists and looking like he didn’t know what he could do.
            Dac immediately strode over to Damian, still in contact with the geographical location services. “I said, get me a GPS bead!” he was shouting, all British pleasantness evaporated. “I want to know where the bloody hell she is!”
            He looked over at Dac while he waited for a result. “Get medical services prepped. Perhaps we can –” He stopped, returning to the radio. “Yes? What’ve you got?”
            He waited a moment as Dac watched, listening to the response. After a few seconds he dropped the radio, rushing out of the conference room. Dac followed him, asking no questions, with Jacob and Brendan right on his heels.
            Shock began to settle in; after so many years with the agency, Dac had lost a team member. It was one of the worst possible things that could happen to him as a leader. He knew medical services wouldn’t be able to do anything; she had died right in front of all of them.
            It wasn’t the first time he’d seen someone die.
            Damian rushed to the basement elevator that led to the front company topside. It opened on approach, with a blue-clad post officer coming out of it with a large wooden crate as tall as he was. He pushed it with a trolley and held a clipboard in his hand.
            “Got a package here for you guys,” he said simply, looking over his clipboard. “Says here express delivery to the basement of –”
            He was cut off as Jacob and Brendan surged forward and grabbed him, pinning him tight against the wall and knocking the clipboard out of his hands. Dac caught it out of the air as Damian inspected the crate. The post officer looked like he had no idea what was going on, shouting obscenities behind the hand Brendan had clamped over his mouth.
            Damian’s eyes looked fearful as he once-overed the crate. He beckoned to Dac, pointing out a particular panel. Dac’s sickening gut already knew what was inside.
            The panel Damian pointed out has only a single, stamped message displayed on it: “HERE’S ONE I PREPARED EARLIER”.
The coroner had declared that the body in the crate – unmistakably Anna’s – had been dead for at least a day. There was no return address, and the stab wounds exactly matched the ones in the video broadcast Dream had made.
            After that, it was all a blur – the polar opposite of the blur he’d had four years ago, on that morning when he’d given Anna the ring. This was a blur of despondent, hazy dread, the subconscious knowledge that there were now fewer days ahead for Jacob than behind. All he felt now was the hole Anna had left in his heart, the irreplaceable gap that just meant he would only live half a life. Mary had tried to be there for him, but given the circumstances it had been beyond awkward for them to even be in the same room much less talk to each other.
            He’d eaten a lot of rainbow ice-cream after that. It had been her favourite, something Belinda had gotten them when they’d announced their engagement to her. He’d eaten it as one of the only ways he knew of to stay close to her – it made him melancholic, to say the least.
            So that had inevitably brought Jacob out on a ‘sabbatical’, as Dac had put it. A street informant of Jacob’s had tipped him off that one of Doctor Dream’s facilities was located around Monte Rosa, the highest mountain in Switzerland. The geographical location of the facility wasn’t entirely clear, and it seemed unlikely that Dream could’ve built something on such odd terrain, but the informant was positive it was there. He was one of Jacob’s regulars; he’d never lied to him before.
            He hadn’t told anyone why he was in the Alps, only that it would be for a few weeks of much-needed alone time. Alone time…that’s something I’ll have a lot more of now. He’d sworn to Damian it wasn’t for any reckless, dangerous reason that he’d chosen Monte Rosa as a getaway spot.
            That was the first lie.
            He’d borrowed one of Brandon’s choppers, on the condition it returned in pristine condition. Jacob had promised it would.
            That was the second lie.
            The chopper, built specifically for high-altitude treks like this one, was nearing Dufourspitze, the main summit of Monte Rosa. All Jacob could see was white, snow-caked mountain from end to end. Radar sweeps revealed nothing. He’d already scanned the nearby village of Zermatt, finding nothing out of the ordinary.
            If there was a facility here, Jacob couldn’t see it. He ground his teeth in frustration, balling his fists and struggling to work out what to do next. He couldn’t leave it here. He couldn’t give up on Anna just because his informant had given him the wrong information.
            When I get back, I’m gonna thrash that sorry sack of –
            The thought was suddenly interrupted as he heard an electrical noise behind him, seeing blue light frame his vision for a moment. He turned around to see a dark-haired woman sitting behind him, wearing a blood-red outfit and a wide grin.
            “Hello Jacob,” she said in a sweet voice, “it’s time to go.”
            Before he could respond she placed a hand on his shoulder, and the world went blue.
Dream was impressed. The plan had worked almost to perfection.
            Jacob – the unconscious subject of Beth’s little experiment – lay on a surgical table with his wrists, waist and ankles strapped down tight. The Mancheerian pair were watching Dream with hopeful eyes as he looked meaningfully over what would soon be his first real sleeper agent. Beth swore blind that she’d perfected the technique since Brendan’s inception, meaning that he actually would be a sleeper rather than a New Zealand dullard accidentally programmed to annoy the shit out of anyone with spontaneous regeneration.
            “You left no trace?”
            Beth nodded hurriedly. “None at all, Doc. Once he left the chopper with me, it crashed on Monte Rosa. I can program a story into him to give to his superiors when he returns to CRUD – say that someone Swiss yahoos came over and blew up the chopper when he was out skiing or something.”
            “And the GPS bug?”
            “I teleported it out of him when I brought him here,” she replied, sounding rather proud of her accomplishment. “It’s lying in a sewer drain in Zermatt.”
            Dream smiled broadly, genuinely pleased. “Excellent. Are we sure this is the right man?”
            Again, Beth nodded. “Positive. Marital data obtained from the San Francisco register tells us this guy was Agent Farraday’s wife.” She picked up a clipboard from the surgical tray standing next to Jacob’s bed. “Preliminary scans show a lot of rainbows in there.”
            Behind her, Tucker stifled a laugh. Dream raised an eyebrow, suddenly feeling tiny twinges of doubt about their professionalism. “Excuse me?”
            “Rainbow ice-cream, to be specific,” Beth explained, shooting a ‘shut-up’ glare at Tucker. “It was his wife’s favourite. He’s been thinking about it a lot; tests show a high concentration of it in his system.”
            “How are you able to discern the flavour of ice-cream that he eats from a test?” Dream asked, genuinely intrigued and feeling slightly daft for asking the question.
            Beth winked. “Don’t question the science, Doc. Suffice it to say, he’s got rainbows on his mind lot. I’m using that as assistance for the suggestive triggers; they’re all going to be colours.”
            Dream had read over her proposal for implanting codewords. Programming people as sleeper agents, removing their original personalities and replacing them with doppelgangers…it was exactly the kind of neuroscience Dream loved. “What’s the master codeword for personality reversion?”
            “Viridian. But we’ve got to be careful.” Beth laid a hand on Jacob’s forehead, brushing his hair back the way a mother would. “If someone tells this little guy who he really is – and I mean, really, not just an assumption or whatever – then he could suffer a fatal synaptic shock.”
            “I thought you said you had ironed out all of the defects in this programming?” Dream inquired.
            Beth shrugged, nonchalant. “Eh. I’ll patch it at some point.” She lovingly stroked his cheek, still giving Dream that impression of a maternal figure. For some reason it unnerved him a little.
            Just a little.
            “Well,” he said after a moment, “I’ve always wanted to teach an Intern.”
“If you lay your hand on his neck any harder, you’ll break what’s left of it.”
            Jacob looked up from feeling for Glen’s pulse. “Hmm? Oh, sorry.” He took his hand off, satisfied that the GardenHose was finally dead. The throat had been the logical place to shoot him; if nothing else, it meant that if he’d survived he’d’ve been silent for the rest of his life.
            A small blessing for the rest of his former co-workers, at least.
            Beth had finished fiddling with the device, putting on a countdown timer of fifteen minutes. “All done!” she said triumphantly, skipping back over to Jacob. “Now, shall we?”
            Jacob had to admit she was acting rather motherly towards him. At least she wasn’t hitting on him; being the created personality she’d made, it’d be a bit weird. Plus he didn’t want to have to murder Tucker as a third wheel in that case.
            “Why fifteen minutes?” he asked, curious. “You could just set it for five, teleport us back upstairs, grab the rest of the guys and get us back to Dream. Why wait?”
            Beth clucked her tongue admonishingly. “Now, now, we must be sporting, my child. We need to give these good people a chance to escape! Besides, I want them to know in their last moments that you are the source of their despair, the last knife driven into their backs.” She put an arm around his waist, clutching him close. “Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
            Jacob’s grin took on the same shape Damian’s had on his first day. “Yes, indeed it does.”

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