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Daniel leaned back against a tree; and while he waited for Elli to arrive, he stayed alert in case Kitten got up.

Suddenly, he heard footsteps in the woods coming at him. Elli? So soon? He scanned the darkness of the forest and saw two men arriving on the other side of the pond. He squinted and turned his hands into fists. Who the hell were they and what were they doing there?

The strangers stopped near the shore. Their faces had no expressions. They were dressed in a gray suit and tie, with black glasses. They weren’t here to pick up a fight; they looked very neat and too serious for that. Daniel didn’t trust appearances, though; and forgetting the pain, he stood up and got ready to face whatever.

The two men stood still, watching him from the other side. Daniel tried to figure out who they were. Because of the way they dressed and the way they held their gaze at him, they didn’t seem to be just nosy guys, nor a gay couple looking for fun. They didn’t look like Broga’s goons either. They appeared to be members of a government agency or something like that.

“Didn’t anyone tell you how ridiculous you guys look with dark glasses at this time of night?” he said, opening the talk.

“We were following you, Mr. Rugertoff,” one of the two said.

“And the little circus you orchestrated made it easy for us to find you,” the other said.

Daniel took a long, deep breath.

“Sorry. That circus was a necessary action to save my life,” he said. “Who are you?”

“Satellite agents,” Elli called them; and descending from the sky, she stood next to him.

Supporting the statement, the men in gray showed their IDs.

“Satellite Agency from the International Research Center,” said one. “We need to talk to you, Mr. Rugertoff.”

Elli stopped cold and pivoted toward them.

“With him?” She was puzzled. “Guys, I must say I’m surprised. I thought you had finally decided to come for me.”

“We are aware of your movements, Miss Sparta,” the other agent replied, and pointed at Daniel with his chin. “But he’s the one we’re interested in now.”

Daniel snorted; he didn’t like the arrogance in the voices of those two. However, judging by Elli’s seriousness and the way she had crossed her arms—as if she were waiting for bad news—Daniel knew that Satellite agents, whoever they were, were not individuals to take lightly. Their presence meant trouble, that’s for sure; a kind of trouble different from what Kitten had caused to him, but trouble anyway.

Then, he recalled how reluctant Elli had been, a few days ago, when he’d offered to take her to the hospital to have her wounded shoulder healed.

“These are the other vultures you feared, right?” he whispered to her; his gaze on the men.

Elli said nothing; her silence was an affirmation.

“Gentlemen…” Daniel addressed them, exposing the sharper sarcasm that his pitiful state could offer. “Considering what you’re asking me for, even after seeing me in the conditions I’m in, I must tell you, you’ve been rude.” He ran his fingers through the corner of his mouth, wiping the blood off of his cut lips. “I wasn’t told my mouth was dirty, and you didn’t even offer me a tissue to clean me up.”

One agent was about to make a caveat, but Daniel stopped him with a gesture and went on talking:

“I have no problem hearing what you have to say,” he said, “as long as we talk on our way to the hospital; which is where I’m headed right now, with or without you.” He pointed out the wounds on his face and added: “You see, the color of the bruises doesn’t match with my skin.”

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Benjamin Cochia

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