A deep gray sky lurks overhead, looming, drizzling but threatening worse at any moment. Morning fog has long settled along the ground and is slowly dissipating as the wind kicks up. The sun is above the horizon, but only just. It casts a dim light to go along with the haze.
I’m running on a track, its white lines fading into the fog. The world more than a hundred feet in front of my face may as well not even exist, save for the dim headlights of cars driving by on the road.
Every breath is a struggle. I get the feeling that I’ve either been out here a long while or am just in poor shape. What I’m running from, I don’t know. I suspect it is my adolescent self, or perhaps the sorrow I now feel sitting just behind my eyelids alongside the pain and dread that only grows with each death. Should I stop, the sorrow, pain, or dread will catch me, and so I push forward as I feel this body has countless times before.
It takes a moment for my mind to fully comprehend my situation. The lust for exercise is not new, but the sadness is. It’s a shadow, lurking on the sidelines, threatening with every difficult step, every hard puff of air, every thought that I might not be able to complete the task at hand. I’m unsurprised that something like this would settle in eventually, but even then, this sorrow feels different than I would expect. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but every breath feels like it’s going to suffocate me.
Soon, the pace is too much to keep up and I start to slow.
No, you can’t stop! I can’t stop a workout like this in the middle!
Of course, the shock of the new voice makes me stop. She’s mousy, urgent but restrained, and trying to hold back a tremor that is very obviously fear.
“Who is that?” I ask her, trailing off as the rain and self-doubt surge.
The body longs to move forward, so I don’t resist, breaking back out into a jog and the feeling of worthlessness immediately ebbs. “I’m sorry, I’m going, I’m going.”
You better. I don’t know what’s going on, but I can’t miss a workout.
Girl, you’re going to miss a lot more than a workout, Jenny says.
What who is that?
“Long story.” The implications that her psyche is mingling with my own are frightening, so I can’t focus on them now. “Let’s start with who you are. What’s your name?”
Isabel… I can barely hear her over the rain and music in my ears, the latter of which I barely even noticed until now. It’s a Gary Numan song. Cars. I’d been humming along as I ran. Isabel Saito.
“Well, Isabel,” I say, slowing my steps ever so slightly to catch my breath and hoping she doesn’t notice. “As you can probably tell, things are about to get weird. Jenny can fill you in on the de—”
The music in my ears fades, replaced by the tone of an incoming phone call. My hands instinctively reach for the buds.
“Hello?” I say after what can only be described as a pregnant pause. I should have asked Isabel how she answers the phone. These are the types of things you never consider until you’ve been killed a few times.
The voice is foreign but recognizable. “Hello, this is—”
“Yes, yes, I know who you are. Get on with it.”
“Oh dear, no time for games today?”
“Games? This is a game to you?” Isabel’s voice makes me sound much less threatening than I’d like to be. I look her up and down and see that she’s unhealthily thin. The creeping depression and demand to finish her exercise before even trying to figure out what’s going on in her head fall into place.
“Yes,” he says, more resigned than I’d expect, “you chose the hard way. This is the hard way.”
“I already told you, I don’t know who hired me, and I wouldn’t tell you even if I did.” A gust blows my words away like they were never there.
“Sometimes people say that at first, which is why I like to start with a glimpse into just how powerless they really are.” His voice takes a philosophical tone. “You’ve seen how I can turn the entire world against you at the snap of my fingers and how I can effortlessly kill you, yet you still resist?”
“Damn right I do.”
“Excellent, my hunters needed some entertainment.”
Hunters? Jenny echoes. What the hell are hunters?
“You didn’t think I was doing this all alone, did you? You hide, they find you, you die.” My knees buckle as I process his worlds. “It’s very simple, really. It will continue until you give me what I want.”
Isabel gasps in my ear, the prospect of dying not yet having settled in for her as it has for Jenny and me. “What if I don’t give you what you want?” I say.
“You’ll come around before you know it,” he says, “but, just in case you start feeling numb to death, there’s something you ought to know. You may already be feeling it. Whenever your soul meshes with another, you pick up a piece of theirs as your own. You’ll lose a bit of yourself in the process, things you don’t even realize are gone until it’s too late. Childhood memories, skills, even your personality will start to fracture. Are you feeling whole today, Victoria?”
The word soul lingers in my head, and Isabel’s depression becoming my own suddenly makes sense. “Bastard” is all I can muster.
“You wanted this, if you recall. The blood is on your hands. My hunters just help spill it.”
“Like hell I wanted this.” Hayley’s last moment in the plane seems ages ago even though I know it must have been recent. Turns out dying can warp your perception of time. “The people the in plane were your hunters, I presume?”
Plane? Isabel questions.
Long story, Jenny says. Like she said before, it’s about to get weird.
“Yes, you’ve already met them,” he says. “They’re great people, really.”
“Man, fuck y—” A gust of wind knocks water into my throat, and now I’m coughing instead of yelling.
“Been talking long?”
“Shut up! You’re killing innocent people!”
“No, Victoria, you are. All you have to do to stop it is tell me who hired you. Until then, it’s you and my hunters. Think of it as a training exercise.” He’s laughing, and I want nothing more than to beat out that smug grin I can only imagine is on his face. “They know you’re out there and your general location, but they don’t know who you are. I think you know what happens when they find you.”
“Piss off. They’ll never find me.”
“Good! They’ll love the challenge. I hope you at least make it difficult this time. The whole Jenny episode left something to be desired.”
The call ends. Cars fades up and resumes in its place. The whole Jenny episode left something to be desired. That’s an understatement. “I’m not used to limitations of weak bodies,” I say to myself.
A weak body? Screw you, Victoria. At least I had a real job.
“Hey, if you get paid, anything is a real job.”
Another line from the man on the phone lingers in my head. Whenever your soul meshes with another. I think I know what I’ve gained—doubt, fear, a mousy voice and a particularly annoying one—but what have I lost? Do I have all my memories? If I didn’t, would I even realize? What about skills? Can I still pick a lock? Can I still jump a car?
Running is pointless after that phone call, even amid Isabel’s protests. There’s a deep sense of guilt at stopping before the end, a feeling of inadequacy I can’t shake and suppose will be present no matter what I do. The Goateed Man—for lack of a better name—chooses his victims carefully.
By now, the parking lot is clearly visible through the fog. It’s early enough that there are only a few cars, but I have no idea which is mine and Isabel refuses to tell me because she wants nothing more than to get back on the track.
A man passes me as I’m arguing with myself. He glances over and gives a half-smile when he hears me speak, but the smile falls into confusion and sadness when he realizes I’m talking to myself rather than him.
The Goateed Man’s words come back to me. You hide, they find you, you die. A chill runs down my spine and to my legs.
I know the man is behind me, but can’t tell where, and I resist as long as I can before throwing a glimpse over my shoulder two steps behind me. He’s doing the same over his. Our eyes meet.
It’s a split-second decision. If they’re out looking for me, I can’t trust anyone.
I break into a sprint, fumbling with Isabel’s keys and pounding the alarm button on her fob until a truck cloaked in the remaining fog explodes into a symphony of flashing lights and honking horn. I throw myself into the cab and lock the doors.
What are you doing? Isabel says.
The horn is drowning out my breaths and I can feel my heartbeat in my ears. “Trying to keep you alive,” I whisper.
I have no idea where the man is, but I can’t wait to find out. Sitting up just far enough to grab the steering wheel, I slam my foot down on the accelerator. The tires squeal beneath me.
I’m about to ram into a light pole by the time I peek my head over the steering wheel, and just manage to avoid it by yanking to my left toward the exit. Behind me, in the mirror and standing just about where he was when I saw him, the man is gawking after me.
The horn is still blaring, and I can see the lights flashing in the thick fog in front of me. It stays that way until long after I’m out of the parking lot.
I should be terrified of what’s happening to me, but all I can do is laugh. “Isabel, we must have looked so ridiculous. Horn blasting. Screaming. Running. All he did was smile and glance over his shoulder and I nearly killed him for it.” I can feel myself slipping, but don’t know if I can or even want to stop it. “Probably not the reaction he usually gets.”
Quiet sobs filter in from Isabel when I figure out how to turn the horn off. Why is this happening to me? Am I really going to die?
It’s a question I can’t bring myself to answer. Yes. Of course, she’s going to die. The Goateed Man holds all the cards, and all I can hope to do is outrun him.
Other than her sobs, Isabel is nearly silent, so I make do with what I have on her phone. Maps tells me where she lives. Instagram tells me her likes and dislikes. Fitbit tells me she ran two miles less than usual, which makes sense given all the guilt I’m feeling. I can find out everything I need to know about her whether she wants to help me or not. I can do this. Maybe.
I’m in her room. My bags are packed with clothes, toiletries, a rope, gloves, boots, whatever I could find in her home that was readily available. I even stuffed a Swiss Army knife I found on her desk into my pocket. Not exactly the tools Victoria would take with her, but better than nothing.
Running gives me pause, even if it’s my only option. It seems like I’m only prolonging the inevitable, and that no matter what I do the Goateed Man and his ‘hunters’ will win.
You’re really doing this to me? Isabel squeaks out after what seems like an hour of silence. To my family?
I take a seat on her bed, holding back the tears she’s sobbing in my ear. Family. Everything I did was for them. I can picture my brother Donavan’s wide grin underneath his afro, his pearly white teeth, his kind eyes. I can even hear his laugh. I can see my mother’s striking, green eyes and the shape of her face, her cheekbones as high and beautiful as they’ve always been. My dad’s prominent, handlebar mustache, his worn but friendly face, the way his eyebrows would raise whenever he knew he caught you in a lie you really thought you could sneak past him.
“Isabel, we have to leave your family behind,” I say as the strangling thought that my own is trying to process my death hits me for the first time. “For their sake. You don’t know how powerful the Goateed Man is. He’d kill them all if it would get to me.”
But what about John? she asks. Her voice is so quiet I have to sit completely still just to hear it even though it’s in my own head. What about my pets? What about my job? My fitness.
There’s a picture of her and her boyfriend on the nightstand next to her bed. I hold it in my hands and the sobs in my ears return.
John. Her voice cracks through the tears. I want to see John.
A shiver runs from my head to my toes. “I’m sorry, we have to go. The hunters are after us. All we can do is run. For our own sake, and for John’s.”
It does nothing to stop the sobs. I leave the picture of the two of them turned face-down on the nightstand. I can’t bring myself to do it any other way.
A few miles down the road I’m surer than ever that running is the right choice. Anything else gets more blood on my hands. The only problem is her gas-guzzler is nearly empty.
I pull into the first gas station I can find, taking the pump next to a newish red coupe with a couple that look to be in their late twenties. The man walks inside just as I get out.
Wait, is this diesel or gas? I’m at the pump before I realize I don’t know the answer.
There’s nothing on the other end of the line, so I take a peek at the tailgate to see the make and model and then look over at the woman from the red coupe to make sure she didn’t see me embarrass myself.
She’s staring at me like I’m losing my mind. I very well might be.
Isabel won’t say anything, but her body tells me she’s starving after the run, so I head inside after filling the tank. A few people pass me on the way, glancing down at me or nodding at me or paying no mind at all. No matter the interaction, each one sends a chill through me; when you view everything through the lens that the hunters our actively trying to seek me out and kill me, it all looks suspicious.
My hand screeches to a halt over a bag of chips, and Isabel speaks for the first time since leaving her place.
No! You can’t eat those, I’ll get so fat!
“After all this you’re still worried about getting fat?”
The least you could do if you’re stealing my life is keep me looking okay.
Sighing, I turn to the healthier food section and catch a man staring at me over some label on a drink he’s feigning a glance at. It stops me dead in my tracks before I remember what Isabel looks like. It’s possible everyone who stares at me wants to kill me, but it’s starting to seem like all they want is to sleep with me. I can’t decide which is worse.
There are a few people in line in front of me and it takes an eternity for them all to pay. Finally, I give the cashier a twenty, tell him to keep the change, and turn to leave.
“Are you sure you can handle all that truck?”
It takes me a moment to realize he’s talking to me. It’s the man from the red coupe, who was right behind me in line, and now that I get a good look at him Jenny practically screams in my ear.
That’s my brother! Oh my God!
The scream is distracting, and I stare at him a second longer than I should, just a dumb, blank gaze that must make it seem like I’m losing it, which again, I very well may be.
“That thing is awfully big, and you’re awfully small.”
That snaps me back into place. “What, because I’m a woman or because I’m Asian?”
He shrugs and gives a self-satisfied smile. “Just saying, I’ve never met a woman who could handle a truck like that.”
“Or maybe your head’s just been so far up your ass you didn’t realize they could.”
Rather than the dumbstruck look I was hoping for, the man—Jenny’s brother, apparently—breaks into a laugh. I’m out the door without another word.
“You grew up with that asshole?”
I—just—I—I don’t know what just happened.
Who’s the woman he’s with? Isabel asks. Wife? Girlfriend?
Used to be girlfriend, maybe wife now, Jenny says.
I open a protein bar after getting into the truck, the thought of my first bite making the stomach curl. “Maybe wife?”
I don’t know, I hadn’t seen him for years before I died, and he’d deleted all his social media.
Oh, I’m so sorry, Isabel says.
We had a falling out after our mom passed away. It’s a long story.
She dodged a bullet if that’s the kind of man he is, but I resist the urge to tell her. They were so estranged she didn’t even recognize his car or partner, and she doesn’t need much more torture than having that rattling around in her head. She’s going to get more anyway, as long as she’s with me.
There’s a welcome silence in my head as I’m driving down the road, one ghost inside me stricken because she’s just seen an estranged family member and the other because she can’t see any of her own.
Everything outside the truck is gray. Sidewalk, pavement, skies. The fog is gone but the rain is worse than before. Trees are swinging in the wind and water is starting to pool around the storm drains I pass. Everyone else is going so slow I feel like if a hunter knew where I was they could just walk up and shoot me without even giving chase.
My mind wanders to Javier. He was like my little brother, except one I could share my life with since Donavan could never know what I truly was. If I’m barely hanging on, I imagine he’s already broken, just like when I found him a few years ago, hijacking my car to get away from a pair of goons he’d double-crossed for a few ounces of coke.
I wish he could just run. That we both could, even though Victoria never ran from anything in her life. Until now, and ‘her life’ doesn’t really fit anymore anyway.
The light in front of me turns from yellow to red almost too late to respond. I slam on the brakes. My head rocks back and forth and my tires screech to a violent halt. The car behind me lays on the horn a little longer than necessary, but at least they don’t hit me. The last thing I need is for my escape to be delayed.
The horn is still going after several moments have passed. “Shit, man. Let it go,” I mumble to myself as I glance at my side mirror.
It’s a small, red coupe. I can’t see the driver, but Jenny’s gasp lets me know who’s behind me. I don’t know how long they were following me, but all I’ve done is reaffirm her brother’s bias, and it would kill me if I didn’t have bigger things on my plate.
Your brother is kind of an asshole, Isabel says. Men like that are the reason I bought this truck in the first place. Kind of a ‘fuck you, I can drive a big truck, too’, type of thing.
I’m starting to like Isabel. I never would have thought she had that in her.
Where are we going? Jenny asks a few seconds later.
“East. Less people. I hope you have some savings, Isabel, because it’s going to be a bit before your body is strong enough to do what I need to make money.”
She doesn’t approve, but I think she’s finally appreciating the situation we’re in, and at least doesn’t fight me on it. Neither of them do, in fact.
Once I settle in, the drive is as depressing as I imagine Isabel’s teenage years were. I pass landmarks I’ll never see again. Houses of friends and acquaintances. I even see my mother’s office in the distance, the top of a skyscraper in the heart of downtown. For a moment, I consider taking a detour to say goodbye before getting on the highway, but then I remember what I look like and what she’ll do if I just walk in and try to convince her I’m her daughter.
Of all the things the Goateed Man took from us, having goodbyes be so close yet completely unattainable is by far the worst. My mother’s office is within view. Isabel’s John is a phone call away. Jenny’s brother even spoke to me and yet I still didn’t let her have her peace. The Goateed Man probably kept me in the same city just to torture me with as much familiarity and chance encounters as possible.
Distracted and in my own head, I start swerving in the lane and nearly hit Jenny’s brother, who by now has pulled up beside me. He and his partner scowl at me from the coupe, and, rather than pulling away from the terrible driver in the too-big truck, they pace me side-by-side.
I’m getting self-conscious after a few blocks of them right beside me, fighting the urge to look over at them the whole time. Finally, I hazard a glance.
The woman is pointing at me. Jenny’s brother nods and rips the steering wheel to the side.
I slam on the brakes and just avoid crashing into them. My movements are thoughtless, completely reactionary, a reflex from a short but talented life. Their tires smoke as they skid to a stop in front of me. The doors fly open. The man is carrying a pistol. The woman’s rifle is already at her shoulder. Their expressions are cold, calculated, deadly.
“Oh shit, that’s the hunters?” Either that, or I must have really pissed off Jenny’s brother. I don’t have time to ask which.
Shots ring out as I stomp on the pedal. Jenny is shrieking in my ear. I’m horizontal in the cab and can’t see anything but dashboard and steering wheel.
Crunching metal comes from all sides. Every burst of the rifle leaves a new crater in the side of the truck. Glass rains in from both windows. Water sprays in with the wind.
The truck lurches to a stop, the coupe buried under its front end. I yank the wheel to the side and stomp on the gas until the coupe skids aside. Jenny’s screams almost drown out the gunshots, twisted metal, and shattering glass. Almost.
I can’t see the road, and I’m driving solely by feel and the memory of what was in front of me before the coup cut me off. It’s not pleasant.
A truck horn shrieks out over the gunfire. I hazard a glance over the wheel just long enough to see the semi heading my way and the swerve back to my own lane is as natural as the move to avoid the coupe eons before. Even if I wanted to, I could never forget Victoria.
Jenny’s voice is hoarse and garbled. Why? Why is he doing this?
The gunfire recedes, and for a moment I think I’m in the clear. Then, I see an SUV on my heels, and the bullet storm picks back up right where it left off. Jenny’s sobs add to the soundtrack.
Pop. Pop. Pop.
Each impact rocks the back of the truck. Some feel closer, some further away. A hole appears in what’s left of the windshield as a bullet flies past my head.
Victoria trained her whole life for something like this. I force a deep breath before calmly swerving to the side. Bullets fly by, but my head is never above the steering wheel long enough for the hunters to get a good shot. Up for an instant, down an instant later, up again to check where I’m at. The intervals are unpredictable.
Despite my driving, they’re still right on my heels, so I smash down on the brakes. The SUV slams into me.
Pedal to the floor. Twisted metal ripping apart. Once I get far enough away to get a clear view out of the mirror, I can see smoke pouring out of the SUV’s hood. The mirror disappears in a puff of glass when a bullet tears through it a moment later.
There’s a smile on my face despite the deep sorrow that’s seeping in from Jenny and Isabel. I’m about to get away, and I’ll disappear off the face of the earth as soon as I can. The chase never ceases to thrill, even when it’s in someone else’s car and someone else’s body.
I cast one final look over my shoulder when I know it’s safe. A single gunshot rings out behind me.
Rubber explodes, and suddenly I can’t control anything. Left, right, left again.
The truck crashes into a car parked on the side of the road, nearly underneath a bridge I’d been approaching. Airbags erupt, sending shards of glass and what’s left of the steering-wheel flying in all directions.
Isabel’s beautiful nose crunches. Glass pierces her skin. There’s blood running down her face and my vision goes black for a moment. I cry out, but there’s no time for pain, and even less for being dazed.
I roll out of the cab and crawl to the front of the truck. There aren’t many options left, not good ones anyway.
The bridge is overhead, but it’s a climb up a tree and as far as I know there are still a handful of bullets waiting for me as soon as I get into the open. The truck is out of commission, as is the car I drove into, but the car in front of it looks functional despite the caved-in rear bumper.
The car with the caved-in bumper is my best option. I take the biggest shard of metal I can find and use it to crush the car’s driver side window.
I’m inside a moment later. It’s second-nature, what I’m doing. Time is short, but they don’t know who they’re dealing with. It might be Isabel Saito’s body, but this is Victoria Simone pulling the strings.
The screws holding the steering console together are perfectly sized for the blade of Isabel’s pocket knife and a roll of wires with three distinct bundles falls out when I remove the access panels.
I grab the far-left bundle and hold the knife’s blade against it before pulling away. It’s not the left bundle, it’s the right. No… the middle.
My mind is blank. I hold all three, staring at them, suddenly sweating.
What are you doing? Isabel says. They’re almost here!
“I know, I know,” I say, still looking them over, waiting for something to click inside my skull. This is easy. I’ve done it so many times I could do it in my sleep. Strip the wires. No, cut them. Black goes to red. No… red to blue. Wait, isn’t there a green?
We’re running out of time!
There’s no hope. I can’t do it. It’s escaped me. Something that was so intrinsic to Victoria’s very survival abandoned her when she left her body. I scream a curse and slam my fist against the floor of the car.
Run! Isabel shrieks. Option A is a no-go. Option B is my only hope.
I crawl across the passenger’s seat to the other side of the car and throw open the door. The Goateed Man’s hunters can’t see me, but I hear their voices by the tailgate. If I’m quick enough, I can get to the small thicket next to the bridge, climb it, and then escape without them even knowing where I went.
My movements are quick and silent. Isabel barely seems to eat and exercises her body into near-malnourishment, but it should be adequate for what I need it to do.
The trees are thick enough to hide in, so I have no time to rest. The branches aren’t sturdy, but I’ll be quick enough that none will have to hold me for too long.
Wind howls. Rain pelts my face. Branches creak underneath my weight, but the sounds are natural in the storm. The hunters’ voices are faint, almost non-existent, save for the frustration I can just make out.
One branch at a time. I’m a squirrel. Or a monkey. No, a leopard. That’s what I am. I’m a leopard. Jenny is rubbing off on me, even though she’s still whimpering in my ears about her brother.
The bridge is close enough now that I can reach out and touch the bottom. Now eye-level with the middle. Almost to the top.
My eyes subconsciously flick down to the truck, just to make sure the hunters didn’t see me.
Everything is so far away. The distance stretches, distorts. I feel weightless and as though I’m at the top of a skyscraper. Twenty feet becomes more like two hundred.
Goosebumps all over my body. Heart racing. A lump in my throat. I’m paralyzed by the height.
The branches at the top of the tree aren’t strong enough, and the momentary hesitation is more than they can handle. It starts as a strained creak. It ends with a snap.
I think I hit every branch on the way down. I land on my back so hard that it feels like my soul is almost forced from Isabel’s body. Gasping, wincing, broken, I cannot move. I see red. Then white. Then black.
My senses return slowly and are distorted. My vision is blurred. My mouth does not work. My ears are ringing. I’m lying in a pool of my blood. Isabel is gasping from either pain or surprise. Jenny is still so moaning so inconsolably that I doubt she even noticed the fall.
Laughter and footsteps. At first it seems like a hallucination, until the man speaks.
“Gerard is not happy with you,” he says, looking down on me from above.
It barely registers. My eyes try to focus on him, but he seems far away, and I can barely make out the shape of his body. Jenny’s voice is hoarse in my ears, crying, Austin, why?
The woman kneels down beside me, a sadistic grin on her face. “I’ll let you in on a little secret. It doesn’t matter if you run. Gerard has your anchor, so he always knows where you are.”
“Gerard? The Goateed Man?”
Jenny’s brother bends down beside the woman. Jenny screams when he catches my eye.
“Yes, Gerard. You should be thankful someone like him is even wasting his time with you.”
“If he always knows where I am, then what was the point of all this?”
“The point is to make it fun,” Jenny’s brother says, “but when you run Gerard just tells us where you are because otherwise it’s a waste of time.”
The woman laughs. “That, and getting your hopes up—”
“—and then destroying them,” the man says.
“I don’t have what he wants,” I say, my voice raspy and weak.
The woman shrugs and looks to the man. “They always say that right before they remember.”
“Were you on the plane?” I say.
“Why, yes, yes we were.” The woman’s words are gleeful. “I was the one who shoved you out.”
The one who shoved me out. I’ll never forget the look in her eyes, just like the one she has now. Different body, same look. Evil. Sadistic. The Sadistic Woman.
“And I just got to watch, but it was fun all the same. Inflicting pain is often the most efficient way to get what you want.”
The cruelty of his words slaps me in the face. The Sadistic Woman and the Cruel Man.
I struggle to lift my head, but my body refuses. The Sadistic Woman peers down at me. “Oh, a little fight left in you?”
“I hope he lets me hunt you next time, too,” the Cruel Man says. “It might be pointless, but you’re fun when you run.”
They look at me like they expect a response. I have none. My mind is completely blank other than Jenny’s moans, which they cannot hear. The only thing I have other than that is agony. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. I can’t even beg for the end.
The Cruel Man takes the pistol from his belt and aims it down at me. The black void takes over a breath later. Jenny’s screams are the last things I hear. Isabel Saito is dead, killed by the brother of a woman she never knew, by forgetting the knowledge she never had, and by succumbing to a fear not her own.
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