Pink Walls

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The Carmosinos [Part IV]

Door or window, boss?

The broken pieces of glass crunched loudly beneath my boots as I pulled away from Ron and the now open window to examine the rest of the room.

An uncountable number of bullet holes had turned the wall behind us into a pincushion and the once pristine floor was now splattered with enough blood to fill a soup bowl.

There were eight bodies lying in the bloody mess of wasted rounds, paint chips and furniture cushioning, and all but one of them had a bleeding hole in the center of their forehead.

They had all been killed with a single shot courtesy of Alex’s more than impressive marksmanship.

If he hadn’t been here, I and Ron wouldn’t have gotten through this unscathed. Then again, that was probably why she had brought him along.

He was our safety net.

“You really shouldn’t stay so close to the window, boss,” I told Saffron while slipping on the gloves I had found in the pocket of Alex’s coat. He always kept a second set on him—along with a butterfly knife and cable ties—just in case.

“I’m just enjoying the view,” she said, and I could almost hear a lazy smile in her voice. “The moon looks especially beautiful this morning. The snow is almost glittering. . .”

Without saying a word, I stepped over Antonia’s dead men to kneel beside the one that had almost strangled me. I pressed two fingers to his neck then turned to Ron in surprise when I found his pulse. “This one’s alive.”

And he somehow managed not to get shot too, I added silently.

She nodded and ran her hand over the fur on her jacket. A look of contemplation crossed her features before she said, “Tie him up then. It’s his good fortune.”

“You’re not going to kill him?”

“We both know you’ll be upset if I do,” she flicked her fingers dismissively in my direction. “Just do it, Kay.”

“Is this what you meant by me being here causing Antonia to make a mistake?” I asked when I was done binding the man’s wrists and ankles with the cable ties. Beside him, I found the cord he had attacked me with. I picked up its two pieces then shoved it into my pocket.

If he had used a gun instead, things would have played out a lot differently. Of course, I trusted Alex to keep the both of us safe, but having to choose who to save first between I and Ron would have been a tough call, and that moment of hesitation could have gotten either of us killed.

“Since we were children, Antonia has always wanted my toys. Obviously, she thought you were one so she wanted to play with you for a bit before killing you, just to spite me,” Ron sounded a bit miffed. “Your reputation as my lover came in handy, didn’t it?”

“Is that why you kissed me?”

“That’s one reason,” she said but didn’t elaborate further.

“And?”

“And I knew it would annoy Alexiares.” She grinned.

“Why would Alex be annoyed?”

Before she could answer me, a canister soared through the broken window and landed in the space between us. I barely had time to duck out of the way before the room was filled with the grey smoke pouring out of the grenade.

I held my arm over my nose and mouth and felt my way to the window. “Boss?”

“Kay!” She coughed and ran right into me.

“Don’t breathe.” I held her face to my shoulder and squinted at where I knew the door was.

Either we went through it or jumped out the window.

There was hardly a difference. We’d still be walking right into a fight either way.

“Kay,” Ron whispered by my ear. “Are you scared?”

The smoke was getting thinner thanks to the gaping hole in what was once the window but that didn’t matter. Whoever was attacking us could just keep throwing smoke grenades until we came out, or worse, choose to blow us up when they got fed up with our game of cat-and-mouse.

“Door or window, boss?” I asked back.

“Don’t call me boss,” she snapped and pulled away from me.

“This is a serious situation, we can’t—”

“What is serious about this?” She chuckled darkly and aimed her pistol at the door.

“I’ll just put a bullet through the thick skull of anyone who dares to walk through that door,” she yelled and held a finger in front of her lips. She pointed at the double doors a second later.

I nodded and walked towards them. She followed silently behind me and we flanked the entrance on each side.

The instant Ron kicked the doors open, gunfire erupted from the corridor. A barrage of bullets flew into the room and embedded themselves into the chairs, dining table and some of the already dead men, splashing blood on the walls and sending chips of ruined furniture into the air.

When the gunfire stopped, we both took a look outside.

After a breath of deafening silence, the gunman popped his head out to shoot again. Ron fired two bullets into his chest and he and his rifle slid to the floor immediately.

We waited for more gunfire but there was none.

Only one shooter?

Ron turned to me and raised an eyebrow, questioning it as well.

“Maybe it’s a trap?” she mouthed then gestured for me to wait.

I watched silently as she moved around the bloody room and rummage through the clothes of the dead men for weapons and ammunition.

She smiled triumphantly when she returned to drop all the guns and magazines she had retrieved by my feet, but looked especially pleased when she reached down and got out a grenade belt.

“Look what I found.” She grinned. “Let’s blow somebody up, shall we?”

She had already ripped the pin off one of the grenades and tossed it out of the room before I could think to give her a reply.

The explosion that followed rocked the ground beneath our feet but it didn’t dissuade the people attacking us. It didn’t take long before more bullets were heading our way again.

Ron grabbed a gun from the pile and immediately returned fire.

“Just surrender!” a voice yelled, and she threw another grenade just to shut them up.

Being at the end of such a long corridor made us no better than sitting ducks. Antonia’s men only needed to wait until Saffron was out of bullets before charging into the room and doing away with us. There was little my knives could do to prevent that sort of situation.

We both knew that.

“It’s only a matter of time before they start throwing their own explosives,” Ron said after another round of cease-fire began.

She took off her jacket and handed it to me then reached behind her and pulled two 9mm handguns out of holsters I couldn’t see.

She tucked one into the waistband of her frilled skirt then flicked off the safety of the other and held it in a double-handed grip. “Toss out all the grenades. It’s time to go.”

I did as I was told and used all my strength to fling the whole belt of live grenades as far down the corridor as I could.

We dashed back to the window and sprinted out onto the snow-covered terrace as multiple explosions shook the building from the ground up.

At the bottom of the steps leading to the rest of the compound were two of Antonia’s men. They already had their guns trained in our direction when we saw them.

They have to be the ones who threw the smoke grenade.

“Drop the gun,” the one to the right barked the moment he noticed us, and swung his rifle in Ron’s direction.

“Easy there.” She raised both her hands then held her gun away from her. “I’m doing it.”

The moment she dropped it, I threw a knife into the hand of the goon aiming his pistol at me. He screamed out a curse and dropped his gun to hold his bleeding palm against his chest.

“You little bit—” The other man swiveled to face me but was cut off by the bullet hole that appeared in between his eyebrows.

When he fell back and hit the ground, his face was still full of experession—his eyes and mouth were still wide open. He probably hadn’t even realized that he had died before his soul was snatched from his body.

I turned to Ron, at a loss for words. When did she—?

“Don’t move.” She aimed her pistol at the remaining goon.

He froze on the spot, caught halfway in a bend with his hand stretched out in a desperate attempt to reach his gun. . . Then he made for it anyway, somehow thinking that he could get to it and shoot faster than Saffron could pull the trigger.

She buried two bullets into his back and he collapsed with a groan.

“Idiot,” she hissed under her breath and lowered her hand to her side.

As I watched the snow around the two men turn red, I inched forward without realizing what I was doing. Somehow, Ron anticipated my thoughts before even I did and grabbed me by the arm before I could take a full step towards them.

“They’re dead, Kay. Don’t bother,” she told me quietly. “And even if they aren’t. There’s nothing you can do for them.”

I knew that she was right but that didn’t make the fact that I had watched them die an easier pill to swallow. Still, I tried to smile when I turned to her and asked, “Shouldn’t we be looking for Antonia?”

“She’s probably long gone by now.”

“And we’re just letting her leave?”

“Holding her hostage would do us no good and killing her would start a war. There’s no point stopping her.” Ron sighed. “Don’t worry though, she got two knives in the shoulder as punishment.”

“You managed to hit her?”

Ron laughed and nudged me gently with her elbow. “Was there any doubt?”

I didn’t answer.

It was another rhetorical question and Saffron didn’t really expect a reply from me, so we just stood there, side by side, listening to the decreasing intensity of gunfire coming from different areas in the compound.

Unless more of Antonia’s men decided to charge at us, there was nothing left for I and Ron to do.

She was the boss, the ruler of the city’s underworld, the head of the Cisco family. It wasn’t her job to get into fights or empty bullets into those who opposed her. That’s what made her different from Antonia Carmosino.

She didn’t have to do any dirty work, she just needed to give orders and wait for the expected result.

And as her bodyguard, all I needed to do was wait along with her.

❄❄❄

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