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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.”

Zach

“She should really trust me by now,” Zach mutters.

István looks up, then down again.

“I mean, yes, I was trained and hired specifically to murder her,” Zach says. “But can I help what I am? I’m like the guy in that Grosse Point Blank movie, where he has to kill Natalie Portman’s dad but then they have sex. You know? That’s what I’m supposed to be doing, not sitting in a room with you two while she’s out–whatever!”

Bukta,” István sighs.

Zach frowns at István. Istvan frowns at Pál.

“Gin,” says Pál mildly, spreading a hand full of diamonds.

Zach

Once they stop shaking, Sara does noisy things to the roof door with her multitool. Zach scowls at shoppers in the mall below as she thumbs Euros down a phone, then leads him into an alley.

Szervusz,” says one of two enormous, shiny-headed men.

“You’ll never take us alive!” Zach says, trying to make his body peel off the wall and stand in front of Sara.

“Zach, meet István and Pál,” Sara sighs. “They’re friends. Friends of friends. Protection.”

“Oh.” Zach grins with relief. “I wish I’d known you had local security for yourself!”

“Sure,” says Sara carefully, “for myself.

Zach

Zach snaps out of the flashback and they hit the long vertical banners screaming. Sara’s fumbled a multitool from her pocket and she drives its pliers through the fabric, which is when Zach realizes she’s got their arms locked in some complicated grip, because it almost dislocates his shoulder.

They continue to descend, albeit more slowly, still screaming. Eventually Zach realizes it’s just him screaming and shuts up.

A jolt, as the pliers snap through the banner’s bottom hem; they fall fifteen feet to a balcony. Sara lands on Zach. He wishes his lungs would reinflate so he could enjoy it.

Zach

Invisible things chip the rooftop concrete as they sprint, accompanied by a staccato of sonic booms. Zach wrings his brain for what the training would have him do and remembers that, yes, this was the part where he got up to go potty.

As if summoned by the memory, Hidebound rises up before them, grinning, two-fisting pistols. “Move!” shouts Zach, grabs Sara by the waist, and hauls them both off the side of the roof.

“What the mother of shit!” she shrieks at him as they plummet.

“I was hoping I’d think of a follow-up by now,” Zach admits.

Zach

“What about you, what are you doing in Budapest?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Zach says mysteriously.

She rolls her eyes. “You can tell me if you’re plainclothes. I’ve worked with the police here, risk management for the nonviolent demonstrations. We get along fine.”

“I’m not plainclothes.”

Her eyes saccade between the points of glare on his glasses, and she decides to believe that. He’s got a sort of arrogant puppydog energy–he’s come into new privileges and they don’t quite fit across his shoulders. Useful.

“I’m Sara,” she says.

“I know,” Zach chuckles.

“What?” says Sara. “How?”

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