THE CRIMSON FLOW

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Chapter 5.4. THE REVOLVING DOOR

“So, where are we going again?” Riley asked for the third time as he sat in the back of the yellow cab.

Tony issued an irritable sideways glance. “The Hilton Garden Inn,” he answered.

Riley nodded and drew himself in like a scolded child. He knew perfectly well where they were going; it was just his nerves talking; they were still firing off in all directions, and the rather dour vampire beside him did nothing to alleviate his concerns.

He took to staring out the window, trying to put his mind at ease, but a greyness even hung over the city - it was cloudy today. The transition between day and night would have been almost impossible to gauge had pinpricks of light not started popping up all over the buildings.

With his neck craning, he looked out at all the concrete sentinels, condominiums, shops, restaurants and the imposing Tribune Tower in all its Neo-Gothic glory. Riley had lived in the city for almost ten years now, but today it was as if he was seeing it for the first time - or - considering present company - perhaps the last.

How the fuck did I get here? He wondered for about the hundredth time. Okay, so he wasn’t a celebrity, nor some successful entrepreneur’s son, or even a highly paid ass-hole in a sharp suit, but hell, he wasn’t a nobody either! Was no-one missing him or questioning his silence?

He’d been a late bloomer, bumming about for a few years in and out of a diversity of jobs gaining experience, acquaintances, connections. And he’d buckled down to get his BA in English and journalism; he’d wanted to better himself. Fair enough, to date, he hadn’t pinned down his ideal job, but he was working on that too - or had been until Barnett nailed him. Stupidly, the thought of immortality as hinted at by the despot vampire had seemed - enticing. Oh, the possibilities! He knew better now, of course.

The cab turned onto East Grand Avenue, and the sea of pedestrians from the tail-end of rush-hour just kept coming and going before Riley’s nervous eyes. He so wanted to be one of them. Instead, he was slave to a coven of vampires, on an exercise to bait yet another potential tv-dinner for them no doubt.

He sighed, painfully, as he considered what was required of him. A month, hell even a week ago, he would have had no problem chatting up some pretty woman. He used to be quite good at it although not all led to the horizontal rumba, he still squeezed some enjoyable steamy encounters. Not that he expected to go down that route with this woman, even though Luke had implicated that was precisely the path he wanted him to travel. He tried not to think about the vampire from whose ‘clutches’ he was meant to lure Becky away. By what he could gather, this Cain was the Kingpin. He shuddered.

Riley looked forward, catching his reflection in the cabby’s rearview mirror. Wow! Devilishly handsome, he thought, sarcastic, noting his lacklustre dirty-blond hair, the shadow of stubble, (which he’d hoped disguised the fact his cheeks were sunken). The dull blue irises and their accompanying dark circles were not giving off that ‘come to bed’ look either. Not exactly Chris Hemsworth, he thought gloomily. While Luke had ensured Riley was well enough dressed, he still didn’t feel good about himself - physically or emotionally. His focus drifted, despondent, back to the busy Chicago streets.

The cab drew to a halt and Tony led the way to the revolving door of the hotel. Before he entered, he stopped and turned to Riley. “You are clear on what you have to do?” he asked. “I snatch, you chase and retrieve.”

Riley was a little surprised by the vampire’s timbre. He had expected a condescending, imperious tone to match Tony’s less than amiable features. But instead, he sensed concern, a degree of heedfulness. It took him a moment, but then Riley gave himself a shake. There was no way the vampire worried about him, only that he carried out what was expected, by following his brother’s orders. “Yes,” Riley answered curtly.

Tony nodded, then after gauging the staff and its clientele, led the way inside.

Several guests were in the foyer, some seated or standing in the vicinity while others were at the reception desk. Whether they were checking in or out, Riley was unsure, but he moved towards the seating available on the far right. Tony shifted in the opposite direction, taking up a vigil to the left of the doorway.

The clock at reception read 18:48. According to information gleaned through Fergus’ hacking abilities, Becky was due to arrive around 19:00, give or take. He settled down into the seat, with a newspaper, trying to look convincing as a guest of the hotel.

The frequent whoosh of the revolving door made Riley glance up from the Chicago Sun-Times, his heart thundering, a trickle of nervous sweat tracing his brow. He had to time this right and couldn’t afford to miss the cue from his vampire chaperon. To do so could prove disastrous, in more ways than one, and not only for himself.

At 18:59, the door whooshed again. And in walked Miss Rebecca Thomson.

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