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Zach

Night, and the demonstrations in Budapest have peaked and begun to decline. The summit leaders will be gone by morning, in private jets and motorcades; the kids in black are straggling home.

Sara’s agents have tracked down Zach. She leaves István to his grief and comforts. Nasser is on a jet of his own, but he’s left Hidebound with a new sense of purpose. The bleeding has stopped and he’s got a fresh clean high.

Sara and Hidebound set out in the dusk, hooded and alone, in converging directions.

They are going to the hospital.

They are going to say goodbye.

Nasser

The first thing Nasser says to Hidebound is “it’s about damn time,” upon Hidebound’s entry into the holding cell; this despite the fact that Nasser has no idea who Hidebound is. It’s the kind of thing Nasser does.

He’s right annoyingly often.

Hidebound’s got a thick bandage over one ear and one drug interaction or another has made things alarmingly clear and bright, but he kills a sufficient number of prisoners and police officers to effect their escape.

“There have been complications,” he says, “in eliminating the girl.”

“Forget her,” says Nasser. “I’ll pay you double for her little American fuck.”

The Vulpine Phalanger

This guy Iakob has had a bad day: the girl’s enforcer crippled him and dragged off his boss in a dynamite undershirt, and Hidebound must have followed to torture said boss’s whereabouts from him. This would explain why the Vulpine Phalanger finds him huddled over the toilet, choking and snorting.

“You know why I’m here, right?” she says gently.

He shudders and nods, but something’s wrong: a chink of metal on porcelain. He’s cuffed here. A reflection, in the bowl, of something white and doughy wired into his mouth.

Three steps; the blast hits. The Vulpine Phalanger tastes blood and darkness.

Nasser

Theora’s not sure who came up with this protest formation but she likes it: there are a dozen of them, bound with gaff tape, turtled together like legionnaires against the bullhorns and the tear gas. Their signs are painted on riot shields.

The problem with this particular turtle is it seems to have no head.

“Embassy row is this way,” insists a man with regrettable dreadlocks. The police, behind them, look hesitant.

“Fuck that, the pigs are right there!” Theora howls with glee.

“Would you please stop elbowing me I am wearing a VEST FULL OF BOMBS DON’T SHOOT,” says Nasser.

Sara

“You’re right,” says Sara, tossing the hammer behind her. “I’m not going to hit you.”

“You could have saved us some time, dear,” says Nasser, regarding the ruins, “and me some money.”

Hogy a mellény.

István grins and leaves. Nasser frowns.

“I do speak a little Hungarian, you know,” he says, “but I fail to see what ‘vest’–”

“It’s time you knew how it feels,” she says, “to be the one manipulated.”

“We all manipulate each other, Sara,” he says, but with an unusual sobriety. “Every one of us.”

“Not every one,” says Sara.

Meanwhile, Zach shoots an eight-year-old.

Sara

Sara, meanwhile, has run out of things to break with István’s hammer.

Nasser watches with weary eyes. “This is an old story, my dear. I damage your self-respect; you destroy my property. But I can buy another television.”

Nézem,” István growls.

“Either call your Magyar to heel or have him hit me, Sara,” says Nasser. “But you can’t quite do either, can you? You must be dangerous, must be the fearsome subversive, but actually dirtying your hands… no, I don’t think you could bear it.”

Sara’s arms are trembling; she doesn’t want it to show. “Nasser,” she says, “you’re projecting.”

Iakob

Nasser’s man Iakob–the one whose knee was recently reconfigured by István’s claw hammer–would recognize Zach if he saw him. They met last week, when Iakob came to Littleford’s agency to hire a killer. He wasn’t supposed to get a good one. Nasser just wanted to pull Sara’s hair.

Now Littleford is dead, and Pál is dead, and Zach and Iakob are in tremendous pain. Nasser can’t tell Sara what she wants to know; Zach knows very, very little.

Nasser’s smile is cold and sweaty, the smile of a man whose reach exceeds his grasp. Hidebound doesn’t smile at all.

Sara

Sara just looks at the camera.

“Sara!” it says in a bandpassed version of Nasser’s voice. “I didn’t know you were in the city. Please–” The barred door buzzes and two very clean men in sunglasses step out to pat her down.

She lets them. When they stand up, István breaks the left one’s knee and takes the other through the door by his throat. Sara follows placidly.

“I don’t know what you’re upset about,” says Nasser, scrambling back with a tight rein on the tone of his voice.

“You never do,” Sara says, “but I’m starting to think it’s congenital.”

Sara

Sara’s stumbled over her words since she was a child; it made her cautious, then precise, and now she’s an irresistible brand of fire when she speaks. But on rough days she falls back to fifth-grade habits. She rehearses sentences as she walks, over and over, in mutters of breath.

“Nasser’s and my relationship is,” she begins, then “Nasser and I have this weird thing. Listen, there’s this guy Nasser–”

She shuts up on realizing she has no reason to explain any of this to Zach. Before she can think of one, she’s at the safehouse door, already scenting blood.

Sara

“There are idiots trying to kill me,” Sara says to Yerucham, across the narrow table.

“I know nothing about that,” says Yerucham. “Pickle?”

“You sure? It sounds like your style.”

“Sara!” he says, genuinely hurt, and not just in the fake way that “genuinely hurt” usually implies. “You and I, we have an arrangement.”

“Then you need to arrange to find out who else is in town, and pissed.”

“Yes, yes. I will email. But for the latter, it’s probably Nasser.”

“What? Why?”

He raises his eyebrows. “Damascus.”

“Oh,” she says. “You heard about that?”

He grins.

“Christ,” she mutters, “men.”

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