Ah, bok. I hate getting shot. Bener winced as Eser poured antiseptic over the furrow creasing Bener’s upper arm. He glanced down, grimacing as more blood beaded up on the wound. At least it’s just a graze. Much better than the alternative, had he been much slower ducking for cover.
Didn’t make it hurt any less.
“Took out a chunk of skin, but not too much muscle damage.” Eser muttered under his breath, hands surprisingly gentle despite his gruff tone. “You’ll live, I guess.”
Bener huffed out a pained laugh. “Thank you, for that ringing endorsement on my health.”
“Yeah, well. Consider it a free pass. Tamerk doesn’t often miss.” Eser glowered as he taped gauze over the wound. “Kenan is never allowed to talk to the enemy again.”
No kidding. Bener frowned at the reminder. Tamerk had been dogging the Katiller’s steps for a while, harassing them the last three times they’d attacked a Ghazi base. This last attack had been the first time they’d actually caught sight of the top Ghazi agent. And Kenan just had to run his mouth.
Reminding Tamerk that the last time they’d met he’d been caught off guard—and nearly taken out—by a girl proved a great way to make the man lose his cool.
Too bad it did nothing to his aim.
Bener glanced around the spacious, if barren room they’d set up as their temporary hideout. It wasn’t much, but it would do for the moment. And it’s in the upscale side of town. Not the Ghazi’s usual M.O. for a hideout, which was exactly the reason the Katiller had chosen it. Especially now that Tamerk seems hellbent on being the one to take us out.
Nothing unusual about that.
Tamerk had always been one of the best, and it rankled him that he wasn’t considered the best. That honor had always gone to Bener and his brothers. Tamerk hated every minute of it. And if he thought he had even half a chance of eliminating us—Bener sighed. The man wouldn’t stop. Not until he completed his mission, or was killed himself.
At least if he’s focused on us, he’s not trying to find the girls. That had been one of Bener’s biggest fears—that Tamerk would seek the girls out in retribution for a humiliating defeat. But it appeared Tamerk had decided to focus all his ire on Bener and his brothers instead.
Not exactly a comforting thought. But at least his brothers were here with him, where he could keep an eye on them and give them what protection he could.
“Hey.” Eser glanced up from packing away the first aid supplies. “You’re thinking too hard again. Care to share?”
Bener shrugged, hissing as the movement pulled on the new wound.
Eser scowled and smacked his uninjured shoulder, hard. “Stop that, dalak! You’ll make it bleed again.”
“Fine. Just thinking. We need to get Tamerk off our backs.” Bener leaned back, carefully stretching his legs out in front of him. “He’s been on our trail, and getting far too close for my liking.”
Eser nodded, shoving the last of the gauze into his pack. “He is annoyingly persistent. And just plain annoying.”
“That’s because for him, it’s personal.” Bener sighed, closing his eyes as he leaned his head back against the wall. “He’s always hated us—hated me. Only now he has carté blanche to act on it.”
Eser shrugged as he zipped up the pack. “He can’t follow us forever. Eventually, the Ghazi will have to pull him off onto something else.”
I wish it was that simple. “The thing is—I don’t think he’d stop.”
Eser glanced up at him, brow furrowed. “Really?”
“I think this time, he’s dead-set on destroying us. An order isn’t going to be enough. He has an opportunity for revenge, he’s going to take it, and damn the consequences.”
Bener hunched forward, rubbing his forehead as a headache bloomed. Tamerk had been distant and aloof even as a teenager. Something dark in the man revelled at the destruction he could wreak, ever since the first day their squads had met in training. And there had been a lot of shared training missions.
But ever since that last training mission together when everything went wrong, he’s just been biding his time, waiting for any chance to get us. The years in between had done nothing to cool the man’s hatred.
“Then we’ll need to be ready for Tamerk at any time.” Eser’s gaze flicked to his computer. “I’ll set up a dedicated tracer on him and his team. Keep a closer eye on him.”
The hacker stretched, spine giving a muffled pop. “In the meantime, we need to figure out what to do now to shake him. May be time to cross borders again. Best thing, though, would be to lay low for a bit.”
Eser shook his head to ward off Bener’s instinctive protest. “I know you don’t like to be inactive, but I think it’s for the best. Go completely off the grid, do nothing but monitor comms for a month or two. Give us time to regroup. We’ve never been in the field this long before. A break could do us good.”
Or it could lead to a twitchy Savas and Kenan blowing a few new holes in the roof. Still, Eser had a point. All of his brothers were looking worn out. Not that any of them would admit it.
But Kenan’s sense of humor was slipping, Eser was starting to glare at his precious computer any time he wasn’t chatting with the girls, and Savas was getting surly—well, more surly. And going off the grid would drive the Ghazi—and Tamerk—absolutely nuts.
“Come on, kardes.” Eser nudged Bener’s knee. “Even just two weeks would be a good thing.”
Bener glanced at Eser, noting yet again the dark smudges under his brother’s eyes and the slouch to his normally straight shoulders. Bener felt the exhaustion in his own muscles. Yeah, we really do need a break.
“Fine.” Bener gave him a wry smile. “Get Seth on the comms. I’ll break the news and then we go dark. Tell Savas and Kenan to pack, and we’ll move out within the hour.”
Eser grinned as he rolled to his feet. “I’m sure Seth’ll be heartbroken to hear we won’t be sending any havoc his way for a while.”
“I’ll be sure to break it to him gently.”
Seth would probably enjoy not having to play advocate between the Katiller and the rest of the U.S. Military for a while. We’ve certainly kept his life—interesting—over the last few months. The man would probably be relieved to have his normal job back, if just for a while.
Bener’s smile grew as he snatched the phone Eser tossed at him. Yeah, this could be a good thing, for everyone involved.
Time to go dark.
To read more character shorts, choose “Katiller” on the blog drop-down menu.