‘Put your hand out for her to smell you,’ says Brian.
The German shepherd looks at me warily. There is not an ounce of friendliness in her. This is the dog version of Mr. Barrington Senior.
I put my hand out.
‘Guard,’ Brian orders. The dog sniffs my hand and goes back into his sit position.
‘Now, hold out your son’s hand.’
I hesitate. Sorab’s hands are so small and there is something about the dog that I don’t quite trust. It has been trained to kill on command.
Brian turns to one of the other men and says, ‘Give me your shoe.’
The man takes his shoe off and holds it out to Brian. He lets all four dogs sniff it. ‘Guard,’ he says, and throws the shoe into the air. It falls about thirty feet away. All four dogs run towards the shoe and form a circle around it, their backs to it.
‘Go get your shoe back,’ he tells the man.
The man begins walking towards his shoe. Five feet away from his shoe, the dogs growl viciously and bare their teeth. Their bodies are crouched, ready to pounce in attack. The man stops in his tracks.
‘At ease,’ Brian says, and in unison the dogs leave the shoe that they had been guarding so ferociously and trot back to him. He praises them then gives them treats.
‘Let them smell the boy.’
I bend down and hold Sorab’s hand out in front of their black faces. One by one they sniff his hand and go and sit by their master.
‘Guard,’ their master says. Immediately their ears stand to attention. Brian disappears and the dogs stay with Sorab and me as we catch the last of the day’s sun. As soon as we go through the front door, the dogs stop following us and begin patrolling the grounds.
It has been two days that we are living in this house. It is surrounded by high walls, a massive manned gate, and teams of dogs that patrol the grounds incessantly. There are CCTV cameras every few yards and security staff watching their screens twenty-four hours a day.
I wonder where Blake is and why he has not come for me, but I feel no fear. I know Sorab and I are safe here. I think about Billie. There is no way to contact her either. There is no Internet or a phone line. That evening I dine alone and go to bed early. I feel lonely but I am not bored. I know that somewhere out there Blake is executing the plans that I have seen so many times in his eyes.
It is 2:00 am when I feel the mattress depress next to me.
‘Who else did you expect?’
I lunge into his arms with a yelp of pure joy and rain kisses on him; his lips, his cheeks, his eyelids, his hands. ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry I ran away. I thought I was doing the right thing.’
‘It’s all right. I knew you would. Once you sold yourself for your mother. I knew you would do the same for me.’
I cannot hold back the tears. He did understand. I had no choice. I had to break my promise to him.
‘I love you, Lana Bloom, I love you more than life itself.’
‘Oh, darling. I’ve waited so long to hear you say that.’
‘I’ve loved you for a very long time. I thought you’d know. My every action screamed it. Even when I thought you left, I couldn’t forget you. We have this unbreakable connection. No matter what you do, I still long for you. I always have and I always will. Could you not tell?’
‘Maybe, but I couldn’t be sure. Why couldn’t you tell me?’
‘Because I wanted my father to think the relationship was temporary. It gave me time to lay down my plans.’
‘If you had told me I wouldn’t have told anyone, anyway.’
‘And take the risk that you would blurt it out accidentally in a conversation with Billie or Jack? No, the stakes were too high. It involved you.’
‘Will you tell me everything now?’
For a moment he hesitates.
He nods and switches on the bedside lamp, and suddenly I see how worn he looks. There is also a look in his eyes that I wish wasn’t there. It is the look of a man who has had to tell the vet to end his beloved dog’s suffering. I lay my palm on his cheek. ‘Are you OK?’
‘Yes. I was always safe. You were the one in danger.’
‘As you can see, I am just fine.’
He takes a deep breath, his chest collapsing. ‘Oh, God, the thought that you might not have been.’
‘How did you know where to send Brian?’
‘Our apartment was bugged, not only by my father, but by me too. I knew he had been around and what he had told you.’
‘So you knew when we were at The Ritz that I was leaving you the next day.’
‘Why didn’t you try to stop me?’
‘The only thing I had on my side was the element of surprise.’
‘Where is your father now?’
His eyes harden. ‘As of fifteen minutes ago, the victim of a plane crash.’
‘You killed him,’ I gasp, utterly horrified.
‘Yes,’ he admits flatly.
‘Why?’ My voice is no more than a whisper.
‘Because he wanted to terminate the thing I love most in the world. And what my father wants, my father gets.’
‘You killed your father for me?’ My voice is incredulous, disbelieving. The words I waited so long to hear, tainted.
‘The real test of love is not being willing to kill for someone, but being able to give up your own life for them. I think I proved my love for you more than a year ago.’
‘Oh no, what have you done?’ I close my eyes in horror. ‘He wasn’t going to kill me. He just wanted me out of your life. He was only going to set me up with a new identity.’
‘My little innocent. How little you know us. It is cheaper and far less troublesome to kill someone of little value than to give them a new identity and support them for life.’
I shake my head. I am in a state of shock. Blake killed his own father. I can’t take it in. Everything is screwed up. ‘Will you have to go to prison?’
He smiles sadly. ‘How many billionaires do you know languishing in prison cells?’
‘So you killed him,’ I say again. As if repeating it will somehow make it go away.
‘And would again.’
‘Why did he hate me so much?’
‘He didn’t hate you, Lana. You were simply in his way. He wanted Sorab.’
I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair.
—Hurt, Johnny Cash’s Version