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Tormentor Mine(4)

By:Anna Zaires

I don’t stop until the small body is uncovered in its entirety, and there’s no longer any doubt.

Trembling, I sink to my knees, my legs unable to hold me.

By some miracle, the right half of Pasha’s face is undamaged, his smooth baby skin unmarred by so much as a scratch. One of his eyes is closed, his little mouth parted, and if he were lying on his side like Tamila was, he could’ve been mistaken for a sleeping child. But he’s not lying on his side, and I see the gaping hole where the explosion ripped away half of his skull. His left arm is missing too, as is his left leg below the knee. His right arm, however, is unscathed, its fingers curled convulsively around the toy car.

In the distance, I hear a howl, a mad, broken sound of inhuman rage. It’s only when I find myself clutching the little body to my chest that I realize the sound is coming from me. I fall silent then, but I can’t stop rocking back and forth.

I can’t stop hugging him.

I don’t know how long I stay like that, holding my son’s remains, but it’s dark by the time the task force soldiers come. I don’t fight them. There’s no point. My son is gone, his bright light extinguished before it had a chance to shine.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper as they drag me away. With each meter of distance between us, the cold inside me grows, the remnants of my humanity bleeding out of my soul. There’s no more pleading, no more bargaining with anyone or anything. I’m empty of hope, devoid of warmth and love. I can’t turn back the clock and hold my son longer, can’t stay behind like he asked me to. Can’t take Tamila to Moscow next year, like I promised her I would.

There’s only one thing I can do for my wife and son, and that’s the reason I’ll keep on living.

I will make their killers pay.

Each and every single one of them.

They will answer for this massacre with their lives.


United States, Present Day


* * *

“Are you sure you don’t want to come out for drinks with me and the girls?” Marsha asks, approaching my locker. She’s already changed out of her nurse’s scrubs and put on a sexy dress. With her bright red lipstick and flamboyant blond curls, she looks like an older version of Marilyn Monroe and likes to party just as much.

“No, thank you. I can’t.” I soften my refusal with a smile. “It’s been a long day, and I’m exhausted.”

She rolls her eyes. “Of course you are. You’re always exhausted these days.”

“Work will do that to you.”

“Yeah, if you work ninety hours a week. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re trying to work yourself to death. You’re no longer a resident, you know? You don’t have to put up with this bullshit.”

I sigh and pick up my bag. “Someone has to be on call.”

“Yes, but it doesn’t have to be you all the time. It’s Friday night, and you’ve worked every weekend for the past month, plus all those nightshifts. I know you’re the newest doctor in your practice and all that, but—”

“I don’t mind the nightshifts,” I interrupt, walking over to the mirror. The mascara I put on this morning has left dark smudges under my eyes, and I use a wet paper towel to wipe them away. It doesn’t improve my haggard appearance much, but I suppose it doesn’t matter, since I’m heading straight home.

“Right, because you don’t sleep,” Marsha says, coming to stand behind me, and I brace myself, knowing she’s about to get on her favorite topic. Though she has a good fifteen years on me, Marsha is my best friend at the hospital, and she’s been increasingly vocal about her concerns.

“Marsha, please. I’m too tired for this,” I say, pulling my unruly waves into a ponytail. I don’t need a lecture to know I’m running myself ragged. My hazel eyes look red and bleary in the mirror, and I feel like I’m sixty instead of twenty-eight.

“Yeah, because you’re overworked and sleep-deprived.” She folds her arms across her chest. “I know you need a distraction after George and all, but—”

“But nothing.” Spinning around, I glare at her. “I don’t want to talk about George.”

“Sara…” Her forehead furrows. “You have to stop punishing yourself for that. It wasn’t your fault. He chose to get behind the wheel; it was his decision.”

My throat closes, and my eyes prickle. To my horror, I realize I’m on the verge of crying, and I turn away in an effort to control myself. Only there’s nowhere to turn; the mirror is in front of me, and it reflects everything I’m feeling.