Keep your enemies close.”
If you have not read the previous chapters of I Know Death, then you should start here.
Maya’s hands were wrapped. She was in the middle of a fight with a punching bag when Colin interrupted.
“Lydia wants to see you,” she said. “Within the hour.”
Her closed fist struck the bag one final time before she turned to face her partner. Maya had barely broken a sweat and still had a lot to do before she finished her morning set.
“Can it wait?” she asked.
“It didn’t seem like it,” Colin said. “But we both know whatever she wants is way above my pay grade if she’s asking for you.”
Colin had worked with Lydia longer, but Maya had earned her respect a lot faster. Somehow this wasn’t a point of contention between the two of them.
“Count yourself lucky,” Maya said. “She probably just wants me to pick her up some coffee.”
Maya began unwrapping her hands. She was wearing shorts, a t-shirt. Her brown hair had been tied into braids and pulled up off her shoulders. Maya decided she wouldn’t have to change out of her gym clothes for this meeting, whatever it was about.
“You should change,” Colin said as if reading her mind.
“I got the impression this meeting might actually be about something serious.”
“Then I’ll change. You’re usually right,” Maya said.
Colin was shorter than Maya, but only by a couple inches. Freckles powdered her face, which was framed by thick black hair. It was her large brown eyes that stood out to Maya the most.
“Are you going to this meeting?” Maya asked.
She tossed the wraps into her open duffel bag.
“No,” Colin said.
It was a rare occurrence when Colin wasn’t involved. Maya and Colin were sent out together for nearly every job.
“I’ll let you know how it goes,” Maya said.
She picked up her bag and headed toward the locker room. Colin walked alongside her.
“Do you think this has something to do with your past?”
Maya stopped and turned to face Colin. She liked Colin. They were close. But she’d never gone into detail about who she really was. Or where she came from. That was on a need-to-know basis and the only person who needed to know was Lydia. And Maya would have preferred it if Lydia didn’t know either.
“I’m not in the mood to speculate,” Maya said.
Colin looked up at Maya with wide eyes, bit her lip, and shrugged. Her own way of apologizing for pressing Maya — without actually having to apologize. It worked every single time. Maya would lose herself in those eyes if she wasn’t careful.
“You’re never in the mood,” Colin said.
Maya pushed the door to the locker room open. Colin slid past her, her body brushing up against Maya’s.
“That’s not true.”
Maya shut the locker room door behind them and dropped her bag on the floor. There wasn’t much to the room. Just a few lockers, some bathroom stalls, and a shower. They were alone.
“I’m always in the mood when you’re around,” Maya said.
Maya grabbed Colin by the hips and pressed her back against the door to the locker room. Colin grabbed a fistful of Maya’s t-shirt and yanked her closer as they kissed.
They shared a moment before Maya finally pulled away.
“I need to change, remember?”
“I can help you undress,” Colin said.
“I’ll have to take you up on that later.”
Colin’s expression shifted to one of concern.
“You don’t think the meeting is about us, do you?”
“No,” Maya said. “Nobody knows about us.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive,” Maya said. “We’d be pulled off all assignments if someone knew. Or just fired on the spot for being compromised.”
“Kind of makes it hotter, doesn’t it?”
“Abso-fuckin-lutely,” Maya said.
They kissed again, but it wasn’t long before Maya pulled away.
“Don’t you have something you should be doing?”
“Other than you?” Colin teased.
Maya smiled but didn’t respond. She picked up her bag and moved it to a bench near her locker.
“Actually, I do have to go do some recon on a man who is probably cheating on his wife.”
“I hate those cases. Does she want him dead?”
“No. Just wants proof.”
“Bummer,” Maya said.
“I know,” Colin turned and walked toward the locker room door.
Maya pulled her t-shirt off and replaced it with one in her locker.
Colin turned around one last time.
“Let me know how the meeting goes,” Colin said.
Colin stepped out the door and it fell shut with a thud behind her.
Maya finished changing pretty quickly. She walked to the mirror and watched herself pull her braids out. Her thick brown hair fell in soft curls around her shoulders.
She had wide shoulders and lean muscular arms but even without makeup she still looked more feminine than she preferred.
She grabbed her smartwatch and put it on her right wrist. It was 7:45 a.m. She had fifteen minutes to get to the third floor of the building. Lydia had them based out of an old hospital. The basement had been mostly gutted, revamped, and turned into a gym. A swimming pool was added too. The only thing that remained from its hospital days was the morgue, which was still in working order. And an incinerator had been added.
Maya cut through the gym and made a straight line for the elevator. A few other people were trickling in. Maya didn’t acknowledge anyone. They left her alone in return.
She got in the elevator and pressed the button for the third floor. She leaned against the wall as the elevator made its way up. The first floor was mostly office space.
The second floor was used for its original purpose. There were recovery rooms and two operating rooms. Maya had been lucky enough to never need treatment.
The third floor completely belonged to Lydia. Maya had only seen about a quarter of it. The rest even she wasn’t allowed access to.
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Maya stepped through and into what she called Lydia’s waiting room. The rest of the hospital looked alright. But the third floor was something completely different. Even just in the waiting room, the walls were a crisp white, highlighted by various colorful paintings that hung on the wall. There were giant windows on either side overlooking the city. Maya loved the view from there at night. It was almost as good as the view from the roof.
Directly across from the elevator was a large desk. Behind it sat Mateo, Lydia’s muscular secretary. Maya was fairly certain Lydia hired him because he could double as a bodyguard.
“You’re on time for once,” Mateo said.
“I’m just as surprised as you are,” Maya said as she approached the desk.
“You can go right in,” he said.
Mateo pushed a button under his desk and Maya heard the door to the right of her click. It was the door to Lydia’s office.
“Wish me luck,” Maya said.
She gave Mateo a smile before pulling the door open and stepping inside.
Lydia’s office was just as pristine as the waiting room. White walls, a giant window to the right. She had three large plants along the windows. A large wooden desk was the main focal point of the room, behind the desk was a door. Maya had never made it through that door.
Lydia was sitting on a cream-colored sofa to the left of her desk. She gestured for Maya to sit next to her.
“We need to talk,” Lydia said.
Her voice was gentle. Maya guessed that Lydia was in her fifties. Her pale blonde hair was cut above her shoulders and immaculate. Maya had worked for her for about seven years. Lydia was the only person who knew the truth about her past.
“That’s why I’m here,” Maya said.
She took a seat next to Lydia and turned her body to face her.
“What’s going on?”
“There’s no gentle way of going about this,” Lydia said with a sigh. “I received a call from NeuriTech—”
“What? Why am I still here?”
Maya jumped from her seat. Nothing scared her. Nothing except the thought of going back to that place. The thought of being a prisoner again.
“Maya, calm down. It wasn’t about you,” Lydia said. “They don’t know that you’re here.”
Maya’s heart was racing. She could feel it in the back of her throat. She closed her eyes and counted down from five. Five, four, three, two, one. Maya’s chest heaved as she took a deep breath and released. She found her center again. She would contain her fear.
“You told them to fuck off, right?”
“No. I did not,” Lydia said. “I’ve accepted a new contract from them.”
“They almost found Tala,” Lydia said.
“After all this time?”
“They were close behind, but what they found instead was something else entirely,” Lydia said. “That’s what they want our help with.”
“I’m not helping them track down anyone,” Maya said. “Why are you even telling me this? You know I’ll do anything I need to just to make sure that company fails.”
“I know how you feel about them, Maya. That is why I’m telling you. They hired me to find information about two people. A young woman named Lexi Alia and a young man named Jesse Terne.”
“Neither of those names sounds familiar,” Maya said.
Lydia rose from the sofa and walked calmly over to her desk. Maya followed her, stopping opposite Lydia.
“They didn’t sound familiar to me either. I did some digging. Look at this,” Lydia said.
She pushed a folder across the desk. Maya flipped it open with one hand. Her eyes traced the page, landing on a photograph of Lexi.
“Jesus,” Maya said. “She looks just like—”
“You don’t think?”
“I think Lexi is her daughter. I think that is why Tala was there.”
“And nobody knows where she is?”
Maya flipped through the pages. She saw photographs of the apartment. Everything was soaked. But she could see traces of bloodstains.
“Tala took her?”
“No. Tala left without her,” Lydia said.
“There was clearly a fight.”
“They found two bullets and a note on the kitchen counter. The note had been ruined by the water.”
“Lexi shot Tala?”
“They don’t believe so.”
Maya ran the scenarios through her head. Tala never missed a shot. If she wanted someone dead then they were dead. Two bullets on the counter. A note. Blood near the balcony.
“Lexi walked out past three NT men that night.”
“Then she had help,” Maya said.
“Jesse managed to knock one of them unconscious. The other let them walk away. The third was God knows where.”
“Amateurs,” Maya said. “Does this mean what I think it means?”
She flipped through the report, skimming the main points.
“What do you think it means?”
“That Tala killed Lexi and she came back to life.”
“I believe so,” Lydia said.
“They must have noticed the resemblance,” Maya said. “She looks just like her mom.”
“They at least suspect,” Lydia said.
“Why did they call you?”
“We’ve helped them on a few cases recently. Nothing to do with you,” Lydia said.
Maya frowned and flipped the folder shut.
“Keep your enemies close, Maya. The more I know about what they’re up to the better. We wouldn’t know about Lexi if I hadn’t been working with them.”
“What do you want me to do?” Maya asked.
“Find Lexi before they do,” Lydia said. “Make sure Ethan never lays his hands on her.”
Maya pressed her lips into a thin line.
“I thought I was done with all that shit. Tala could take care of herself. Marceline and Devi are so deep into hiding even I can’t find them. I made a new life for myself.”
“The past always catches up with you, Maya. You knew this.”
Maya pulled the folder closer to her. Lydia was right. She had to do something. Ethan ran NeuriTech. He had been after Tala for years, but Tala was no easy target. If he found someone else with her same powers. Then he could get whatever it was that he wanted.
“If Tala knew about Lexi then why would she lead Ethan’s men right to her?”
“Maybe she didn’t know how close they were?” Lydia asked.
“No,” Maya said. “Everything she does is calculated. She knew. I just don’t know why.”
Maya sighed and rolled her shoulders back.
“Scratch that. I think I know,” Maya said.
She made eye contact with Lydia and pulled the folder off the desk.
“She thought it would be more fun.”
“Perhaps,” Lydia said.
“Who brought you this information? It wasn’t Ethan?”
“No. I’ve never spoken with Ethan directly. It was someone else. She called herself Emma.”
Maya felt her stomach drop when she heard Lydia speak that name.
“I’ll look into it,” Maya said.
Maya’s tone was more serious now. She started walking toward the exit.
“Maya,” Lydia said.
With her hand on the door, Maya turned to face Lydia again.
“Don’t give that information to anyone else. Even if you believe you can trust them.”
“I know,” Maya said.
“That includes Colin.”
“I know, I’m not stupid.”
“You’re not stupid. But don’t think I don’t know that she makes you weak,” Lydia said. “I’m not blind and you have been exceptionally careless around her as of late.”
“Consider it taken care of,” Maya said.
“Good. Now get to work.”
Copyright © 2021 k.c. statler