The cold rain nipped at my face as I navigated through the rushing crowd on the sidewalk. I had my hood up in an attempt to keep my hair and headphones dry. Humming along to my music, I swung the door open on my favourite coffee shop before nodding to the barista with a smile as she started brewing my usual latte while I joined the line to pay. I pushed off my hood and paid for my drink, leaving a large tip like I did every day and grabbed my coffee before flipping my hood back up and walking outside towards work.
I worked at a small family-owned bookstore in Brooklyn. It was a beautiful little shop, full to the brim with loaded bookshelves and piles of books that wouldn’t fit. Sure, it was a nightmare to keep track of stock but being surrounded by so many books all day made it worthwhile. They even had a small seating area in the back corner to encourage people to stick around. I’ve worked here for the past 2 years, ever since I settled in the US.
As I turned the corner the store was on, I spotted Liam, a young kid that spent more of his free time in our little seating corner. I assumed that he had issues at home because he never wanted to leave. After the first few times he spent all day here, I started sharing my lunch with him because I never saw him eat. He never talked to me until one day he wrote me a thank-you note, explaining that he didn’t have the money to buy food and reading distracted him from his hunger pains. He also explained that he was deaf, only being able to communicate with sign language.
I went home that night and started teaching myself so I would be able to talk to him. We had become really close, he even made me a card for Valentine’s day this year.
I grinned as I caught Liam’s eye. Poor boy was looking tired and cold.
“Hey Liam. What are we reading today?” I signed towards him before digging the key from my satchel and unlocking the front door to the shop.
“Hi Adelaide. I am going to read Harry Potter again,” he replied then rushed ahead of me into the store, grabbing his book and snuggled into the armchair in the corner. I chuckled and took a mental note to buy a blanket for the chair to keep the kid warm during winter.
The day went pretty slowly, we had a few customers that needed assistance, but I spent the day mostly reading my own book from behind the counter. At closing time, I ushered Liam from the store, but I remembered to rush back inside and grab my book.
I was returning to the front of the store when I heard the screech of tires, I looked up to see 3 men wearing ski masks and all black pulling a struggling Liam into their rusted van. I dropped my book and ran towards them but I was too fucking slow. They spend off down the street quickly, swerving a bit around the road.
“Fuck,” I swore loudly, grabbing at my hair, trying not to cry. That poor kid was already dealing with enough. His parents probably wouldn’t even notice if he disappeared. The street was pretty quiet this time of night so I didn’t have to suffer through people staring at me like I was losing it.
I knew then that I had to get him back. I wasn’t going to be another adult that let him down. I fished my mobile out of my back pocket, dialling one of my contacts, Dimitri.
“Privet, milyy,” he answered quickly. He was always reliable like that.
“Dimitri. I need you to run a check on a number plate and track it through the city,” I said harshly, letting him know this was serious. “I need everything. EVERYTHING.”
“On it, volk,” he hung up quickly. I put my phone away, locking the store door before running off towards my apartment.
As I rushed past the people on the street, I was already formulating a plan. I needed to get my cash and weapons from my wardrobe, grab another burner phone, pack a bag and grab my car or bike from storage. I almost kicked down my apartment door when the last lock got stuck. I hurried in and started stuffing a duffle bag with clothes, hiding a few thousand dollars at the bottom of the bag. I threw off my rain jacket and put on my worn leather jacket.
My phone rang and I scrambled to answer it.
“Van is linked to 5 abductions, across the country. Only one body found, outside a town in Nevada. Looked messy. Will sent you the photos and locations,” Dimitri said in a sombre tone. He has never been able to handle crime scene photos well, he’s got a bit of a weak stomach. Guess that’s why he’s just a deck jockey for the CIA. He had a brilliant mind but didn’t have the tolerance for blood he needed to work in the field.
I was very grateful for that, it meant I had a connection inside an American agency as well as all of my contacts in Russia.
“Get someone to send my bike ahead of me, I’m driving there today. Get me a house outside of town and all the information you can get on any organised crime in the area.”
Looks like I’m hunting again.
3 days later and I’m here. I pulled onto the back road, driving a few minutes before coming across the rundown shack that will be my home until I have a new lead on Liam. I stepped out of the car as a shiny black truck pulled in behind me, my bike on the back. The driver gets out and unloads my bike without a word, his black suit pants now covering in brown sand.
I nodded to him and got one in return as he got back into the truck and drives away. I’ll have to remember to thank Viktor for lending me one of his men for this. Not like he didn’t owe me anyway.
I grabbed my duffle bag from the boot, covered my car with a tarp and made my way inside. All of the furniture was covered with dusty sheets and you could see the dust floating in the air. It was a small place, a cute stone fireplace and an exposed beam ceiling. I quickly found the bedroom, a double bed and one side table.
I threw my bag on the bed, took out a change of clothes and found the bathroom, taking a freezing cold shower as there was no electricity at the moment. I pulled on a change of clothes, skin tight black jeans, a grey vintage crop top and my trusty leather jacket. Tying my hair up in a pony tail and applying some mascara and a classic red lipstick, I trudged back into the living room.
I needed to call Dimitri, I couldn’t go into town for supplies until I knew what kind of people lived here. It only rung once before he answered.
“Ty v bezopasnosti?”
“Da, I am. Got the info I need yet?”
“Sure do. You only have 2 groups, both motorcycle clubs. The Black Vipers and the Devil’s Makers. They seem to be on the brink of war, The Devil’s Makers disagree with the Vipers hand in human trafficking. They probably have your boy, or at least know where he is.”
“Okay, so I have a chance of an alliance with the Makers?”
“Maybe, but byt’ ostorozhen. I’ll send you information on their local hangouts, see if you can get yourself invited in. Or, you know, don’t give them a choice,” he chuckled.
“Ya ne budu slishkom gryaznym, I’m technically retired, remember?”
“Yeah yeah, try telling that to vash boss. Is this kid really worth all the favours you’re cashing in?
I growled into the phone, “Someone has to look for him.”
“Alright. Well I’ll leave you to make yourself at home. Do svidaniya, malysh”
I stuffed my phone in my pocket and pulled my boots back on. Grabbing my bike keys and helmet, I made sure the house was secure before mounting my bike and leaving in a cloud of dust.
First stop, somewhere to fucking eat.