Shifting her weight from one foot to the other, Delilah glanced up from absentmindedly scraping off what was left of the blue nail polish she’d used, and resisted the urge to sigh when the line in front of her was still there. She knew she should have just gone to the bank on her way in to town, but she’d figured that she would be driving back before the rush hit, but publishers were notorious for taking their sweet time during the editing process, and now she was stuck waiting in line, surrounded by people in business suits eager to get home. The rather large lady behind her, smelling of many cats and cigarettes, groaned in frustration for the umpteenth time and started muttering under her breath. Rolling her eyes, but sharing some of the sentiment, Delilah tilted to her head to look past the long line to see what was causing the delay.
A young woman, dressed mostly in black with a handkerchief clutched firmly in a white fist, was crying as the bank teller shook his head and motioned to the stack of papers the woman had produced. Because of the quiet that could only be found in banks, Delilah was able to hear the words ‘power of attorney’ float over everyone’s heads. The woman, not liking her answer, stamped her foot and yelled for the manager, causing Delilah to raise an eyebrow at the childish display. A loud sigh from behind had her turning her head to see the large cat woman raise a middle finger to the line, muttering something about wasting her time before waddling towards the front door. Amused at the fact that the woman was wearing a t-shirt with a cartoon cat sticking its own version of the middle finger on the back, Delilah watched as the woman yanked open the doors, only to fall back screaming.
Instantly, every head in the building swiveled to look at her, and there was a collective gasp as they saw a handful of men in black clothes, their faces covered in ski masks in colors that ranged the entire rainbow, rush in, big guns held in their hands. A sharp snap coming from the front of the bank had Delilah whirling around to see the young woman, the one who had been crying not even a second ago, cackling as the bank teller fell back, cradling a hand to his chest, the wrist obviously broken. A scream had her whirling back around, and she watched as the round woman was dragged further into the bank by her hair, pulled by a man who’s biceps looked to be the size of a large watermelon.
A small voice, very far back in her mind, wondered how much the man lifted if he could drag the woman across the floor kicking and screaming with ease. Another voice, the one labeled her conscience, pointed out that one of the other robbers was starting to speak, and if she wanted to stay alive, she should probably pay attention. Snapping back to the present, Delilah focused on the words just as he finalized his warning.
" - and if anyone so much as even thinks of fighting back, well, we have guns and you don’t.” he taunted, the low voice giving away the gender. Delilah assumed he was the leader of the group, because with a simple wave of his hand, someone in a bright yellow ski mask produced a plastic bag. The leader clapped his hands, the sound echoing in the marble covered room. “Form a line and drop your phone, wallet and jewelry in the bag!” he yelled, making nearly everyone in the area jump.
Everyone hesitated for a second, looking at each other, then a young man, his very young daughter propped on his hip and clutching his t-shirt,stepped forward, his free hand raised. He was closely followed by a woman who Delilah assumed to be his wife, her hands raised as well. People quickly followed, and Delilah found herself jostled and shoved as the group around her rushed to follow the command, the sight of another burglar behind them with an unnecessarily large gun spurring them in to action.
Once again, Delilah was standing in a line, but this one was moving much faster, aided by the sight of armed men, and by the time she reached Yellow Head, she still hadn’t removed the necklace from around her neck. Her fingers were trembling as she tried to remove the ring she constantly wore on her right middle finger, and her wide eyes glanced up at the leader, the red hood on his face not helping with her nerves.
“Hurry up!” he barked, and she flinched, yanking at the ring.
“I’m sorry-” she started and she saw the arm raise before pain blossomed across her cheek, sending her falling to her knees. Throwing her hands out, she caught herself before she ate marble, and yelped when a booted foot stepped on her wrist. The man in the red hood leaned down and with his free hand yanked the ring off her finger so hard, it popped out of place. Biting her tongue to keep from screaming, she watched with watery eyes as the same hand reached for her necklace, the silver locket having slipped out of its place under her shirt during the fall. A fissure of panic rushed through her as he started to pull on it, and she raised a hand, a quick ‘please!’ falling from her lips.
Obviously not expecting her to speak after being punched in the jaw, the man paused, just long enough for her to slip the chain of the necklace over her head. Holding it out in front of her, Delilah stared at the small bee that had been rubbed smooth after years of comfort seeking, and fought back the sob that was threatening to escape. The necklace had been the only thing of her mother’s that she’d been allowed to keep after she died.
“Boss!” a rushed whisper had Delilah looking up through a curtain of hair, and there was one of the other thief’s, wearing a blue mask, holding his phone out for his leader to see, and she nearly missed the pointed look he/she sent her way.
A moment of deafening silence later, Red Hood made a sound in the back of his throat and stepped off her wrist, grabbing the necklace as he went. Waving a finger in the air, he started walking backwards towards the door. Delilah watched from her place on the floor as the group slipped out and soon it was as if they had never been there. A woman crying broke the quiet, and the sound of rushed footsteps was heard, then someone dropped to their knees next her, and a gentle hand touched her shoulder. Flinching back at the unexpected contact, they pulled back and a woman’s voice broke through the fog in her mind.
“I’m a nurse, sweetie. Would you let me look at you?”
Turning her head, she stared blankly at the kind-faced woman, seeing the wince she tried to hide when Delilah held up her hand with the dislocated finger.
“I can re-set it now, or you can wait for the EMT’s.” the woman said, fingers deftly moving over her skin, her touch light as she checked for anything out of the ordinary.
“Now, please.” Delilah whispered, her mind still reeling from the loss of both her necklace and ring. Both had been keepsakes from her family, the ring having belonged to her grandmother, willed to Delilah when the woman died. The loss of the two was heatbreaking, and she really didn’t want to see her brothers expressions when she told them how she lost them.
Maybe she wouldn’t tell them, and hope against hope that they would turn up in a pawn shop.
Many hours later, with a splint on her finger and an ice pack pressed to her jaw, Delilah sank into the cushions of her couch and let her head fall back with a sigh. Already stressed out about the bank robbery, the police hadn’t made anything better when they finally showed up. They had asked questions and scoured the place for clues, but Delilah could tell that they had left with more questions instead of answers. Since she had refused to be checked over by an EMT, already knowing what was injured and how to treat it, they had let her go as soon as she promised to get help if she experienced any nightmares or flashbacks.
With a scoff, she reached for her neck and paused when she remembered that she no longer had the necklace. Hand falling down to hang limply off the couch’s armrest, Delilah closed her eyes while she willed the tears away. It would take a while before the habit of reaching for her mothers necklace would pass. Shaking the thought from her mind, she hauled her body from its resting place and headed to her kitchen, passing by the nook that was her reading spot and the spare bedroom she used as an office space.
Once in the kitchen, she threw the ice pack back back into the freezer and reached for a cupboard door as she did so. Wine glass in hand, she scooted around the small island that broke up her open layout kitchen and knelt in front of the little wine storage space. Uncaring of any labels, she grabbed one and easily opened it. As she was about to start pouring, she stared for a second at the wine glass then looked back to the bottle.
With a shrug, she brought the bottle to her lips and took a hearty swig. There was no one around to impress and she fully intended on getting drunk. Drinking from the bottle would only expedite the process. Leaning a hip against the counter, she lifted the bottle to her lips and took a hearty swig, ignoring the pain in her jaw at the movement. Turning her head to look out of the kitchen window, strategically placed to allow the maximum amount of sunlight, as were all her windows, Delilah watched as people came and went through the small park, oblivious to anything else. In the few years she had lived in the apartment, this window had become a way for her to feel like part of the world without having to go outside, and today was no different. As she stood in her brightly colored kitchen, occasionally lifting a bottle of wine to her lips for a hearty swig, she could focus on the people and try to figure them out, to give them backstories. It helped her forget about her own issues for a moment or two, and it also helped when she was hit with a particularly nasty writer’s block.
Speaking of writer’s block, she cast a glance at the open French Doors that led into her work space and huffed. Her latest project was definitely giving her some trouble, and her editor wasn’t helping by constantly calling. Sherise meant well, but the thousand and one calls that had Delilah putting her phone on silent only got on her nerves. She worked better when she was able to work through her plots, and with the constant interruption of the buzzing phone dancing across her desk, she’d gotten nowhere in the last few days.
As if on cue, the now familiar buzzing of her phone on the tile of her countertops had her sighing and running a hand down her face as she reached for the phone. Glancing at the screen, she couldn’t resist the eyeroll as she swiped the screen to answer it, her older brother’s name in all caps letting her know who it was.
“I’m assuming you’ve heard from Dad.” She didn’t bother with a greeting, knowing her brother was going to start asking a million questions. The silence that greeted her statement proved that she had stumped her usually verbose brother.
“I hate it when you do that, Del.” Marcus whined, and Delilah chuckled.
“You do it to me all the time, turnabout is fair play, bro.”
“She’s got you there.”
Walking to her couch, Delilah paused as the familiar voice of her younger brother came through the speaker, pulling the phone away from her ear to make sure she’d read the name right.
“You guys conference called me, didn’t you?” she asked, collapsing on the couch again, toe-ing off her sandals and wiggling her toes in relief.
“Our sister is such a smart cookie!” Logan sang, and once again Delilah rolled her eyes. In the back of her mind, she remembered her mother’s warning about what would happen to her face if she rolled her eyes too much, but the antics of her brother always resulted in an eye-roll. Ever since Logan had been born, Marcus had swooped in and together they had made her life difficult. Together they had conviced a young Delilah that helicopters were watching her every move and reporting it to Santa Clause, and that tomatoes bled when you cut into them. They also scared the living daylights out of the first boy to break her heart and had been there when their mother died, providing her with strong support all around. Marcus had been the one to buy her the first laptop, prompting her to start writing.
“Thanks, Logan.” She droned, and there was a tell-tale snicker from Marcus.
“Ok kids, knock it off.” Ever the serious one, Marcus’s tone changed and instantly the mood between them changed. Sinking into the couch cushion, Delilah waited to see what her brothers had to say.
“We heard you were hurt, did you have to go to the hospital?” Logan was the first one to speak.
“I didn’t.” Delilah told her brothers, ignoring the uproar. “There was a nurse in the bank when it happened, and my only injury that is actually causing me pain is the finger that was dislocated.”
“Why the one finger?” Marcus asked, and Delilah sucked in a breath. She’d hoped that she would have some time before she told them she’d lost two of their family heirlooms.
“They took Grandma’s ring.” She finally told them, and there was a deafening silence. Figuring it was better to rip the band-aid all the way off instead of prolonging it, she spoke again. “And Mom’s necklace.”
“Delly.” Logan’s voice was soft, not helping the lump that had lodged itself in her throat.
“Dad said you were hit in the face too?” Marcus spoke up, and Logan let out a curse that had their older brother calling out his name, tone sharp. Obviously, their father had neglected to tell Logan about that part.
“Yeah.” Delilah admitted reluctantly. “I’m going to have a nice purple bruise on my jaw for a few days.”
This time both of her brothers let out curses that had Delilah chuckling. They definitely didn’t learn those words from their father, who had turned to the Church when their mother died. Delilah, an emotional 14 year old at the time, had felt his absense the most and still held some resentment towards him. It was partially the reason she’d moved to New York in the first place.
“-we even know who the hell those guys were?”
Tuning into her brother’s conversation that had gone on without her, Delilah was surprised to hear Marcus answer in the affirmative. She shouldn’t have been surprised, seeing as her big brother worked for the CIA as an analyst, but did surprise her was his answer.
“They’re part of a group that have been hitting places all over the world. Gun running, drugs and jewels, the only thing they don’t run is any kind of human trafficking.”
“That’s a plus, I guess.” Logan’s sarcastic retort was almost lost as Marcus ignored his little brother and kept talking. As Marcus went into more detail about the seemingly world-wide group of criminals, Delilah could feel the throbbing in her jaw return and the dull pulse in her finger come back with a pounding passion, and slid off the couch, heading back towards the kitchen, grabbing the orange pill bottle of painkillers as she went.
“Do you guys have any idea who runs this group?” Logan interrupted Marcus, catching Delilah’s attention as she reached for a glass, turning on her kitchen faucet, pouring enough water to down the horse pills that were the pain-killers.
“All we know is that they call him King.”
Delilah choked on her last swallow of water, halting both of her brothers conversation.
“A-are you one hundred percent p-positive that’s what they call him?” Delilah managed to get out between coughs and gasps for air, the name resonating through her mind as a landslide of memories flooded her head.
There was only one person in her entire life that she ever remebered being called King, and she hadn’t heard that name since high school. In fact, she had been the one to jokingly suggest the nickname.
Dropping her glass in the sink, Delilah sank down to the floor, a hand over her mouth. Staring unblinkingly at her toes, she vaguely heard her brothers calling her name, but all she could think about were a pair of blue eyes twinkling at her as an arm helped her lie down on a couch, his other hand caressing her neck.
All she could see in her minds eye were two people sitting on a couch in front of a a roaring fire, laughing at each other, stealing kisses between jokes.
Taking a shuddering breath, Delilah squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, as if the movement alone would erase the memories. Of course, it didn’t work, but she forced them back all the same. She’d had a couple of heartbreaks in her life, but none of them hurt as much as her breakup with her high-school sweetheart. She preferred to avoid thinking about it all together.
“Yeah sorry, just couldn’t get over the fact that someone had the balls to make their people call them King.” The line fell smoothly from her lips, and her brothers seemed to buy it when they laughed.
“It’s terrible and hilarious at the same time!” Logan got out between heaving breaths while Marcus snickered in the background.
Mind reeling, Delilah managed to get through the rest of the call without clueing Marcus into the fact that she knew who ‘King’ was, and managed to reassure her brothers that she was fine and that they didn’t have to come stay with her. She promised them that she would call if she needed anything and if she had any concerns about her safety (although the last promise was more for Marcus, since he was CIA and her little brother was a Kindergarten teacher). As soon as she hung up, she stumbled over to her bedroom and headed straight for her closet, throwing open the door and reaching for the highest shelf, searching until her fingertips crazed the edge of an old shoebox.
With a little jump, Delilah grabbed hold of the box and brought it down, holding it in front of her as she walked to her bed, perching on the edge. Balancing the old, decorated shoebox on her knees, Delilah stared at the old pictures glued to the outside. Pictures of her with braces and terrible hair, some of old friends that had gone their own way and her favorite places when she was a teenager, like the tiny coffee shop where she’d met - .
With a frustrated sigh, she tore the lid off and sneezed as a cloud of dust attacked her sinuses. Swiping at her nose to get rid of the tickle, she looked down at the old momento keepsake in her lap, and paused. Right on top of the pile of old letters, flier and pictures, lay a snapshot of the day that would be forever burned in her memory.
She’d collapsed on the park bench with a sigh, a huff of air displacing the bangs that fell a little too long on her face, and she’d turned her face up to the sun, closing her eyes against the glare. She had stayed like that for a minute or two before a shadow blocked the sunlight and she squinted her eyes open, seeing nothing but a halo of sunlight around a tall shadow.
“You quitting on me already?”
The squint had turned into a glare as the glare faded and she could see her boyfriend grinning down at her, uncaring of the sweat that dripped from his brow.
“Not all of us are as athletically inclined as you are, Barron.” She’d snipped back, fighting the urge to smile at the boy who just smirked at her, posing and showing off.
Barron had only laughed and gracefully collapsed on the bench next to her, using the hem of his shirt to wipe away the sweat on his face, gracing her with a tantalizing glimpse of a rock solid abdomen. She’d felt her face flush and she’d bit her lip as she looked away.
“You’re cute when you blush.” Barron had said, and she’d only blushed harder, causing the blond boy to chuckle and pull out his camera, leaning in to kiss her cheek as he snapped a photo.
That had been the first time he’d kissed her, and in her dreams, she could still feel the touch of his lips on her skin.
Shoving the box off her lap, she stepped over the strewn papers and pictures, heading back into the kitchen to where she’d dropped her phone. Picking it up off the floor, she opened the screen and went to her contacts, scrolling through them until she found the one she was looking for.
Pressing the call button, she held the phone to her ear as it rang, and when a familiar voice picked up, she spoke, leaning against the kitchen counter, looking out of the window once more.
“Hey Tony, I need a favor.”
“Anything for you, sweet cheeks.”
No more than two hours later, Delilah was standing on a sidewalk, staring up at a huge warehouse building near the docks, feeling a certain amount of trepidation as she realized that passed this point, she didn’t have a plan.
Glancing down at the piece of torn notebook paper that she had used to jot down the address her contact at the NCIS had very reluctantly given her, then back up at the building. The addresses matched, and she knew there were people inside, she could see the lights through the big windows near the top. Yet, she still couldn’t bring herself to knock on the door.
Walking back to her car, she reached for the car door handle. Pausing, she looked over her shoulder at the big brick warehouse type building, going over her reasons why she should or not be here.
For one thing, given everything that Marcus had said, she was realizing that maybe showing up unnanounced at what could be his home was probably not the best idea. Plus, she hadn’t seen Barron in seven years. She didn’t even know if he wanted to see her again. But then she remembered that little scene in the bank, when one of the group had showed the leader something on the screen and everyone had just … left.
And she really wanted her things back.
With that thought in mind, she marched up to the what could be considered the front door and raised a hand to knock when a sudden wave of indecision hit, freezing her hand right before her knuckles hit wood. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath in through her nose, she let her hand fall and heard her knock reverberate through the wood.
Not a second later, the door was flung open by a stony faced man who towered over her and whose biceps could have been both of of her thighs put together. Frozen in her place, she gawked at his sudden appearance, instantly noticing the pair of holsters on either side of his body, and his arms, which were crossed threateningly over his chest, were covered in tattoos. She opened her mouth to try to speak, but was stopped when the man just grunted out a word and held out a meaty hand.
Snapping her mouth shut, she glanced down to where she held her phone in her hand, then back to the huge hand that was held in front of her. Raising an eyebrow at the man, all she got in return was a blank stare.
“Fine. But I’d better get it back when I leave.” She wasn’t sure where the bravado came from, but it was apparently the right thing to say, because Delilah could have sworn that she saw the corner of his mouth twitch up in a smile.
Placing her phone in his hand, she watched as he put it in a metal box right inside the door, then stepped back, motioning her to follow him as he did. Delilah hesitated another brief second, staring up at the imposing building. There was a feeling she couldn’t shake that as soon as she stepped through those doors, her life wouldn’t ever be the same.