There were two holes about five inches above the back of her knee. It felt like a relatively straight cut. That German freak had obviously missed his mark. Had the surgically-precise stab hit its target, she probably would have bled out. Luckily, the bleeding had mostly ceased. All that was left was a slight oozing out of both ends of the wound. Aside from some discomfort, she was okay.
A quick examination of the dead assassin’s corpse was disappointing. He was a pure killer and had only brought the tools necessary to complete his task. His vehicle had to be parked somewhere nearby. Thinking he would drive right up to the barn and give her a clean shot was an amateurish mistake. She had been making too many of those. Whatever he drove up in was probably parked in the small wooded are to the north of the building. That was the only place that would provide any cover. The rest of the area was covered in fields separated by narrow rows of trees that would prove insufficient for hiding a vehicle. Finding that vehicle would probably prove equally disappointing to the search of his person, but she would have to look for it anyway. Even the smallest clue would be valuable. Killing him hadn’t brought her any closer to her goal. Before she could think about that, she had to dress her wound.
Though the stab wound in Shelia’s leg wasn’t life threatening, it had been quite a long time since she had taken any damage from combat. The pain was like an old forgotten friend. One she wasn’t all that interested in spending time with. The limp it caused in her stride was equally unwelcome. That would slow her down, and she needed to be fresh. The Blitzkrieg was only the beginning. Hopefully, the first aid kit that Rufus had sent along with her contained some of his magic pills. She didn’t know what was in them or where he got them, but they were very effective at dulling pain without dulling the senses. There had to be some narcotic element to them too. She remembered feeling invincible the two times in her life that she had to take them.
It wasn’t her best work, but within thirty minutes Shelia was back in her van with her wounds cleaned, stitched, and wrapped. Two more scars to add to her collection. With Mark dead, she wouldn’t have to worry about coming up with a story. Nobody would be asking about them. She closed her eyes and roughly pushed the hair back from her face.
Mark’s face floated before the darkness of her closed eyes. It wore the cocky smirk that meant he found something amusing about a situation and had something smart to say about it. Of all the expressions that ever took up residence on that man’s face, it was most definitely the one she liked least. Right at that moment she would have given anything to see him walk into that van, assess the hack job that she had done on her leg, flash that condescending expression, and make some wise crack about it. Forget all of the times she wanted to rip that look off of his face. If only she could see it just one more time...
Everything had been happening so fast. The kids were getting all of her attention. She never really dealt with Mark’s death. The fact that he was never coming back was overshadowed by the fact that there was nothing she could do to save him. All that was left was to grieve, and she didn’t have time for that. The kids needed her. They needed her to be sharp. The darkness of the van didn’t care anything about what she or the kids needed. It wouldn’t let her run away from it any longer. The tears came as scenes from the roughly twelve years that their relationship spanned played out like an old film flickering on the screen of her mind.
Shelia fell to her side and curled up into a ball. Misty emotion leaked from her eyes. It came slowly at first, one tear at a time, like the first bubbles breaking the still surface of a pot of water just threatening to boil. It wasn’t long before those singular tears became groups. They pushed passed her tightly closed eyelids like an angry mob overcoming an understaffed barricade. Her body shook as she gave in to those tears that were accompanied by the wild wailing of one who has lost everything, one who has been ripped apart and doesn’t exactly know how the scattered pieces of their soul could ever be patched back together again.
Shelia remained sobbing and shaking like that until the sun finally gave way to the darkness. By that point, the van was pitch. It was Matt who finally forced her to pull it back together. He crawled over his dad’s face and asked, “Mommy?” That was the reminder she needed. Mark was dead, but Matt and Alyssa were still alive. She could still save them. She couldn’t check out. There was no more time for grief. Once the kids were safe and every last Rosatti was dead, she would have herself a good cry. Until that time, she had to be strong. She had to be a killer.
Moments later, the tears were finished, Shelia’s breathing was steady and controlled, and her thumb was poised above the talk lever on the two-way Rufus had given her. A second before her thumb came down on that lever, Rufus’s voice crackled through the speaker on the front of it, “Stiletto, you there?”
She let her thumb drop, “Yeah, I’m here.” She paused, keeping her thumb down on the lever, and then added, “Did you take something to cure that case of chickenshit?”
“Look,” he replied, “I said I was sorry, and you know I ain’t afraid of dyin’. It ain’t fear, not for me. I did things to that kid.” His started to continue, but his voice trailed off before he finished saying, “They were things…”
Shelia was unmoved, “It sure smells like fear to me. And if it isn’t, I don’t have time to help you work through those demons right now. In fact, I’m not sure that I want to. All this time, I had no idea that these fuckers were looking for me. I thought I was safe. I thought my family was safe. Had I known…” She sighed, shook her head, and continued, “It doesn’t matter. I was just about to call you. Do you have anything for me?”
“I do,” he replied. “You need to know, I ain’t killed anybody since Danny. That’s how much it affected me. I’m not sure I can anymore. I ain’t afraid of dying. I’m afraid of letting you trust me to have your back and not being able to deliver.”
“Like I said, I don’t have time for that. All I need from you is information. Do you have anything for me?”
“Fine,” he sighed. “I guess I deserve that. Okay, Mario is calling the shots on this. I’m not sure Big John even knows about it. As far as I know, that guy don’t even come out of his room anymore. He’s barely seen by anybody, and when he is, he’s in a wheelchair. Anyway, nobody’s at the Rosatti estate. Mario’s got a place on Lake Geneva. I’ve been monitoring all of their comms. Based on the way they’ve been talking, that’s gotta’ be where they’re holding your kids. I’m about forty-five minutes away from there. I’m going to load up and head over there. I expect to be knockin’ on the front door within two hours, or, more realistically, blowing it in.”
“I don’t need you to do that, Rufus. You’ve made it very clear that you’ll be more of a liability in this one. If you can’t pull the trigger, you’re just going to get in my way. All I really need is an address.”
“Man,” Rufus’s tone echoed his frustration, “you hold a grudge better than your daddy did. Did that hit team leave you with a computer in that van?”
“It’s not a grudge, Rufus. We’ll deal with this when it’s all over. Facts are facts. If you can’t execute the mission, you are a liability. You taught me that,” all of the emotion had fled from Shelia’s tone. “Yes, I have a computer. It looks like navigation was all they used it for.”
“Good. Ping me and I’ll load up a map for you. And Stiletto…”
“I’ll be there.”