N'buli docked his boat by an Amsterdam hotel on just the wrong side of midnight, and he was starving. He called Val and told her to bring the others to his favourite Thai restaurant in the city.
He’d already polished off one plate of Pad Thai and was considering what to order next when Val, Max and Trevor arrived and sat beside him at his booth. They weren’t hungry.
'How was Dave?' asked Max, getting straight to the point.
'Dave’s fine,' said N'buli. 'Dave’s being very Dave right now.'
Trevor snickered, but Val ignored him. 'Then what is the plan, boss? You want to go find this HATE guy and see what he knows?'
N'buli decided against a second course, but could have killed for a green tea. 'Nobody talks about HATE and we can’t trust anybody else, so we’ve just got to barrel ahead on our own. And the faster the better. It’s like Trevor was saying the other day…'
'Oh, don’t quote me,' said Trevor. 'How embarrassing.'
'He was saying it’s better to keep going. All the way to the end, wherever it takes you. We just have to get on with it.'
'Good advice,' said Max
'Agreed,' said Val. 'But who is this Trevor?'
'I know,' said N'buli, 'it doesn’t sound like him usually. But this Trevor.'
Max turned and looked at Trevor. 'Which Trevor?'
'That guy! The Trevor sitting next to you.'
'N'buli,' said Max, very slowly. 'There is nobody sitting next to me. It's an empty seat.'
Trevor smiled at him, and reached out for N'buli’s hands. 'I never told you my last name, did I?'
'Fuck off!' snarled N'buli as he backed off into the corner of the booth, out of Trevor’s reach.
'N'buli?' said Max.
'Oh my god,' said Val. 'He’s lost it.'
Trevor sat back, winked, said 'Be seeing you,' and vanished.
They returned to the safe house by the most torturous route possible and nobody said a word. It wasn’t until they were back inside, and the door was bolted, that Val turned to N'buli and spoke.
'Have you stopped being crazy yet?'
'Oh, come on,' said N'buli. 'So I’ve been talking to somebody who wasn’t really there for the past few days. He gave me food, and I ate it, which makes him the most tactile hallucination I’ve ever heard of.'
Val and Max were unconvinced.
'Jesus Christ! This Trevor situation isn’t the strangest thing that’s ever happened to me.'
'It is pretty fucking weird, though,' said Max.
N'buli winced. 'It is, isn’t it? Even for us.' He clapped his hands together. 'Never mind! Trevor is gone now, and we better get a move on, before the Goodsons come down hard on us.'
'And what are we going to do if they do?' asked Val.
'We stop them.'
'Can you kill them?'
'No. I’ll think of something.'
'But what if we do have to kill them? What if we have no choice?' Val went to the nearest window and opened it. They were on the third floor of a perfectly anonymous apartment building just around the corner from the Van Gogh museum. It was silent outside in the night and Val drank it in before speaking. 'I haven’t killed anybody in 63 years.'
'I never killed anybody,' said Max.
N'buli turned to Val. 'Are you sure? You always go for the wound, but how much medical attention was there on the Western Front? How many died screaming on filthy hospital beds as infection got into their bones?'
'How many of your countrymen died because you let the enemy live? How many of your friends and family were killed by soldiers you did not stop?'
'I haven’t killed anybody,' said Max
'Something is not alive because we live,' said N'buli. 'This is the way the world works, but do we have the right?'
N'buli blinked and realised he had to stop being stupid. He reached out and put an arm on Val’s shoulder. 'I’m sorry, Val. I’m taking this out on you, and that’s wrong.'
'Good. We can agree on that, at least.'
'It’s just… With the amount of power the Goodsons have, they could destroy us with a thought, and I still don’t get why they’re doing it. I don’t see the angle.'
'Angles are something to calculate,' said Valentina. 'We can figure that out later. We just need to know what direction we need to point in.'
Max hit the arm of his chair. 'I haven’t killed anybody!'
N'buli turned to the pilot. 'We heard you the first time, Max.'
'Really? So what are we going to do about it? If these guys come to kill us, what am I going to do? Throw sarcasm at them until they cave in?'
'Or I could just kill you all,' said Valentina.
Max snorted. 'That would work.'
N'buli’s own smirk vanished as he saw the look on Valentina’s face and the blade she was pulling out of her jacket.
'I could just kill you all,' said Valentina. The knuckles in her right hand went white as she tightened her grip on the blade. 'I could just kill you all.'
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