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Tormentor Mine(13)

By:Anna Zaires

Don’t think about it. Not yet.

“Have my parents been notified?” I ask after Karen helps me return to the bed. She’s already removed the tray, and Agent Ryson is sitting in a chair next to the bed, his craggy face lined with weary tension.

“No,” Karen says softly. “Not yet. We wanted to discuss that with you, actually.”

I look at her, then at Ryson. “Discuss what?”

“Dr. Cobakis—Sara—we think it might be best if the exact circumstances of your husband’s demise, as well as the attack on you, were kept confidential,” Ryson says. “It would save you a lot of unpleasant media attention, as well as—”

“You mean, it would save you a lot of unpleasant media attention.” A spurt of anger chases away some of the haze in my mind. “That’s why I’m here, instead of a regular hospital. You want to cover this up, pretend it never happened.”

“We want to keep you safe and help you move past this,” Karen says, her brown gaze earnest on my face. “Nothing good can come of blasting this story to all the papers. What happened was a terrible tragedy, but your husband was already on life support. You know better than anyone that it was only a matter of time before—”

“What about the other three men?” I cut in sharply. “Were they on life support too?”

“They died in the line of duty,” Ryson says. “Their families have already been informed, so you don’t have to worry about that. With George, you were his only family, so…”

“So now I’ve been informed too.” My mouth twists. “Your conscience is appeased, and now it’s cleanup time. Or should I say ‘cover your ass’ time?”

His face tightens. “This is still largely classified, Dr. Cobakis. If you go to the media, you’ll be stirring up a hornet’s nest, and trust me, you don’t want that. Neither would your husband, if he were alive. He didn’t want anyone to know about this matter, not even you.”

“What?” I stare at the agent. “George knew? But—”

“He didn’t know he was on the list, and neither did we,” Karen says, laying her hand on the back of Ryson’s chair. “We learned about that after the accident, and at that point, we did what we could to protect him.”

My head is throbbing, but I push the pain away and try to concentrate on what they’re telling me. “I don’t understand. What happened on that assignment abroad? How did George get involved with this fugitive? And when?”

“That’s the classified part,” Ryson says. “I’m sorry, but it’s really best if you leave it alone. We’re searching for your husband’s killer now, and we’re trying to protect the remaining people on his list. Given his resources, that’s not an easy task. If the media is on our heels, we won’t be able to do our job as effectively, and more people may die. Do you understand what I’m saying, Dr. Cobakis? For your safety, and that of other people, you have to let it drop.”

I tense, recalling what the agent said about the others. “How many has he already killed?”

“Too many, I’m afraid,” Karen says somberly. “We didn’t find out about the list until he got to several people in Europe, and by the time we were able to put the proper safeguards in place, there were only a few individuals left.”

I draw in a shaky breath, my head spinning. I’d known what George did as a foreign correspondent, of course, and I’d read many of his articles and exposés, but those stories hadn’t felt entirely real to me. Even when Agent Ryson approached me nine months ago about the supposed mafia threat to George’s life, the fear I experienced was more academic than visceral. Outside of George’s accident and the painful years leading up to it, I’d led a charmed life, one filled with the typical suburban concerns about school, work, and family. International fugitives who torture and kill people on some mysterious list are so far outside my realm of experience I feel like I’ve been dropped into someone else’s life.

“We know it’s a lot to take in,” Karen says gently, and I realize some of what I’m feeling must be written on my face. “You’re still in shock from the attack, and to learn about all this on top of that…” She inhales. “If you need someone to talk to, I know a good therapist who’s worked with soldiers with PTSD and such.”

“No, I…” I want to refuse, tell her I don’t need anyone, but I can’t make my mouth form the lie. The ball of pain inside my chest is choking me from within, and despite my mental wall, more horrible memories are filtering in, flashes of darkness and helplessness and terror.