CHAPTER THREE


Annie lies on the floor of the bathroom. Palms up, hair a dark corona around her face, nude. The floor underneath her is unyeilding, which would matter if she cared about things like physical comfort anymore.

In the next room lies a body that is cooling as rapidly as the tile beneath her is warming.

He had been so easy to hunt. A metaphor slinks into her mind, that of a housecat being deposited on the great green expanse of the Masai Mara. The man in the next room is that housecat. Was that housecat. And she is the leopardess who stalked and effortlessly killed him.

If she'd had any persisting suspicion that the CIA had been behind Auggie's murder, she knows now for sure that they weren't. The man had been a low-rent hustler, a thug. An online posting with a seductive photo and an invitation for some fun! had been all that was needed to bring him mewing to her door. He hadn't even recognized her when she'd met him at the cheap motel in the bad part of town. Stupid, stupid kitty cat.

She rehearses all the steps she needs to take to sanitize the room. The pilled sheets, the smoke-stained wallpaper, the ragged carpet - that's not her concern. It's the blood, every drop of it, that she needs to make vanish.

In a moment of carelessness, her psyche falters and she abruptly remembers Auggie's blood, spilling freely into her cupped palms, and gasps as the grief vivisects her once again. She writhes on the floor, unable to breathe. Unable to think of anything except the liquid weight of the red cells, the white cells, the plasma and the platelets; every precious drop of it as it flooded out of his body, taking all his thoughts, memories, and hopes with it. Wetly flowing from the gaping wound in his chest. The wound he'd received the moment he'd placed his own heart in front of hers. His protective instinct for her honed far beyond what his eyes couldn't perceive, he'd somehow known there was a gun, that she was in danger. In the space of five seconds, the man had shot, grabbed Annie's purse, and fled.

And now he is dead. Like Auggie. Like Annie & Auggie. Auggie & Annie.

She considers who she'll be now. Nothing about continuing to live is appealing. And yet...

...she lifts one hand from the floor and draws it slowly to her abdomen. Dances her fingertips to the hidden rise that is pressing up from within the dip of her pelvis. It is impossibly subtle, undetectable to anyone but her. Anyone but her and the blind man who had known the contours of her body like the planes of his own face.

Him. He. Hers. Auggie.

And now, theirs.