Bad Blood - Shey Stahl

For The Boy.

You’ve encouraged me to stick with this crazy dream, even when I’ve thought of giving up. Thank you for being my best friend and the father of the most precious gift.

If you are scared of the wolves, stay out of the forest. – Russian proverb

“YOU KNOW HE’S counting on you coming to find me. He wants you here, so he can attack.” Camille cried, before wiping the blood from the cut on her lip with her shoulder. Her body shook with the force of the words. Covered in blood and sweat, she fought vigilantly against the restraints tying her hands behind her back, her eyes darting around the room. “You’ll never see him coming.”

She was pretending not to see me, but like she warned, I did know, I would attack, and they wouldn’t see me coming.

Like every Navy SEAL, I was trained to fight like my enemy.

I trained for war and fought to win.

I was never out of the fight.

They thought they’d won, caught me where they could, but they had no idea the retribution I was about to set forth upon them.

“You’re wrong.” He snorted as he paced the area in front of her, his head bowed with a can of gasoline in his left hand. “Ronan lied to you, so we would come after you. He never needed you to find us. He’s a trained assassin. If he wanted to find us, he would. You were never part of his plan.”

I began to understand what he meant by “us.” I never would have considered he was part of that.

Through the tiny metal cracks in the vent in the heating ducts, I could see the realization and the thoughts racing through Camille’s mind, even from twenty feet away. He was feeding her lies. Manipulating people was what he did best.

Maybe I did use her, but it was never for this.

I used her to find him, knowing he would show his face eventually.

“Where is Ronan?” he asked again, kneeling directly in front of her now, his back to me.

Camille spit blood in his face with determination as she kicked him in the jaw. “He’s everywhere, you piece of shit. Everywhere!”

It brought him to his knees, momentarily.

“He’s not here to save you, now is he?” he roared back at her, wiping blood from his nose.

After shaking the black can in his hand, he then twisted the cap off and raised it over her head.

Dumping the gasoline over her entire body, shaking the can dry, he took out the matches in his pocket and tossed the can aside.

How could I have been so blind as to not know it was him all along?

All the warnings, all the words between us over the years, teemed my thoughts. Words rushed through me, his words, and a definition of what I was feeling.

Fury.

There was one of them.

Punishment.

In Greek mythology, fury was the spirit of punishment. It was often represented as one of three goddesses who executed the curses pronounced upon criminals, torturing the guilty with stings of conscience.

Another man appeared beside him, only I couldn’t see his face under the shadows of the night as he withdrew a blade from his pocket, holding it to Camille’s throat. “You should have kept your fucking mouth shut.”

She thrashed against them, turning and twisting her body violently, a last-ditch effort to free herself.

This is bad, I thought to myself and even mouthed the words. This is really bad.

What the fuck was I doing here with a child?

A child who was about to witness her mother being murdered, and I involved them.

Thoughts raced through my mind, scenarios where I could get Camille out alive.

I wanted to move, show them how I could be everywhere.

I wanted to reach for my gun and put a bullet straight through their skulls.

But if I said anything, we were both dead.

If she moved, if I moved, if Camille’s eyes even darted in my direction, we were all dead.

So I sat in silence, waiting, enduring her screams until she finally had enough and gave up, letting them take another fraction of her soul they hadn’t already claimed in the years before.

Twisting the best I could, my hands covered Neo’s ears, her tears soaking my shirt as she whimpered in my arms.

“I’m scared,” she sobbed. “I want my mommy.”

A child as innocent as her shouldn’t have been here.

“Shhh,” I whispered, squeezing tighter, resisting my instincts to get up and fight. I felt sick. My stomach dropped, my heart stilled, and I could almost feel the