Pink Walls

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Day Two [Part IV]

“Keep your head down.”

“Why did you come for me?”

Daniel stepped into the bedroom dressed in black from head to toe with nothing but his face and hands showing. He had his duffel bag over his shoulder, though I was sure that I hadn’t seen it when I had done a sweep of the bathroom.

Maybe that’s what he hiding. But why? I got off the bed and clasped my hands behind me, to prevent my bloodstained gloves from touching anything. “Let’s go.”

“You don’t make unnecessary efforts for those who don’t deserve it,” he continued, “so why did you save me?”

I stopped in front of the door and thought for a moment. Of course, I didn’t know what he wanted to hear and I wasn’t going to stress myself figuring out the mind of a moody teenager. “My paycheck is counting on you staying alive.”

“You’re lying.”

I shut my eyes and took in a deep breath. When I opened them again and turned around, Daniel was right in front of me.

With him so close, I was able to see just how much damage he had taken to the face, and just badly they must have hurt. I could only imagine the other wounds he was hiding beneath his clothes.

He had cuts on his lips and bruises along his cheekbones. There was a dusting of red on his cheek where ‘Sonya’ had hit him and his left eye was slightly swollen.

I also noticed that his jewelry was gone. I didn’t know whether asking what happened to them would push the wrong buttons, so I didn’t. The kid had gotten enough punishment for drugging me, he didn’t need me making things worse.

That made me wonder how Olly was doing—and suddenly Wednesday seemed too far away.

The last time I had seen him, I was sure that something had been on his mind but I couldn’t bring myself to ask. He was the sort of happy that Daniel pretended to be so it was hard to imagine that anything could bother him.

I hope he’s okay.

“I know who you are, you must know that,” Daniel took a step forward, settling himself right in my personal space, and I was dragged back to the present. “I don’t know what your name is but word on the streets is that you are Ron Cisco’s lover. Either that or you’re The Ghost, and that can’t be it,” he laughed and swiped his hand through his damp fringe to slick it with the rest of his hair, “or I’d be dead three times over by now.”

“This,” I scolded myself for letting my thoughts drift so far, “isn’t the time. We need to go right now.”

I pulled open the door and held my hand in the direction of the fire escape. “Hope you’re ready to do some climbing.”

He huffed and stormed past me, clearly not happy to be ignored.

With a sigh, I stepped out of the room and watched him climb through the window. I shifted my gaze to the door leading out of the apartment and contemplated dealing with the person that would be patrolling the hallway now.

In the end, I decided not to push my luck. If they managed to shoot their gun at any point during the fight, I’d be outnumbered three to one.

I picked up the throwing knife the hitman that was now passed out on the floor had pulled out of his shoulder, and inspected it for a moment before shoving it into my coat pocket.

“I’m definitely going to need to burn this coat.” I groaned and walked to the fire escape, thinking about how I’d break the news to Alex. I couldn’t bear to think about how much blood had stained it by now. It wasn’t salvageable, not by Alex’s standards anyway. And I couldn’t keep it without getting mugged on the way home.

This is why I don’t have nice things.

I shut the window behind me with a forceful slam, ignoring Daniel’s questioning stare. I took the duffle bag from him and pushed him past the two hitmen stacked on the floor, pointing to the steps leading to the level below us. “Start moving.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“There was nothing to answer.”

He was about to retort but my glare made him shut up. I wasn’t in the right kind of mood to babysit and I didn’t want to snap at him for no reason.

I knew that in a few hours I’d have a headache that needed something stronger than aspirin to cure. And I didn’t want to be mean now when I could help it.

When Daniel reached the very last rung of the fire escape’s ladder, he jumped to the ground and turned around to stick his tongue out at me. A very childish thing to do, but I let it go seeing that he had just been beaten senseless.

I landed beside him a moment later, my boots crunching softly in the snow. It was only now that I realized just how much his duffle bag was weighing me down.

I frowned and adjusted the strap to rest on the shoulder that wasn’t throbbing.

When Daniel started walking to the front of the building, I grabbed him by the arm and pulled him back with more force than I intended.

“Not that way.” I loosened my grip when he flinched and he pulled away immediately.

I bit back the apology that was on the tip of my tongue and gestured behind me. “Keep your head down.”

Hiding a redhead with a target on their back from paid killers wasn’t an easy thing to do but we managed even though the streets were crawling with them.

It took a while, and a lot of ducking and detours, but we finally made it to Alex’s car without bumping into any unsavory characters.

When I pulled open the backdoor for Daniel, he raised an eyebrow. I mimicked his expression. “Do you want me to bow?”

He opened his mouth to reply but must have thought better of it because he shook his head and entered the car instead. I smiled tightly and slid into the driver’s seat, tossing the duffel bag to him after I locked the doors. “Seatbelt, please.”

I kept my eyes on the rear view mirror until he did then started the car and put mine on.

He remained quiet for nearly an hour, not saying a word until I pulled into the parking lot of one of the hotels owned by the Ciscos. If we could wait out all the days here, my mission would be much easier.

“You drive like a granny.”

I laughed at that and looked back at him with a small smile. “Not your grannies, I guess.”

A hint of pink diffused through his cheeks but he said nothing and just got out of the car.

I turned off the engine and did the same, stepping out onto the illuminated path leading into the main building of Hotel Dei Lupi.

I fell in step beside Daniel and took the duffle bag from him, already speaking before he could begin to argue, “You obviously sprained your ankle.”

“I can carry it just fine.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t go snooping through your property.”

“How are you okay with this?” he shouted out of nowhere and threw his hands into the air. “I have given up on understanding you.”

I turned to him, surprised that he had raised his voice. “Okay with what?”

“I poisoned you. . .” He looked uncomfortable now, shifting his weight to his left foot every once in a while. “You aren’t going to take revenge?”

“No.” I took him by the hand and dragged him into the hotel. There was no time for standing around when the Carmosinos were still tracking us. There was no time for guilt trips or sulking or making amends. Just surviving.

“Good morning, Sirs,” the doorman greeted with a deadpan expression.

Very welcoming. I nodded, not even pausing as I walked past him to the reception.

“I’d like a room please,” I told the man behind the desk as Daniel yanked his hand out of mine.

“One room?” he whispered harshly, and I pretended not to hear him.

“Three nights,” I added.

“Cash or card?” the receptionist asked.

“Cash.”

“I would need to scan the bills, Sir. Hotel policy.”

“I understand.” It only made sense that the businesses managed by Alex would run the serial numbers through the system before accepting them.

I reached into my back pocket and got out the money he had given me. I didn’t think I would need to spend it so soon but as usual Alex was always thinking a step ahead.

I slid the wrinkled envelope across the desk without opening it. As a runner, I was more than knowledgeable on how things in the gang worked. Having nothing to hide ensured the best service. Besides, it was best if all the bills were scanned, that way Alex would be sure that I was here.

I was always good to have a safety net, and there was none with a better set of eyes than him. With his pair watching over me, I would be able to rest easy.

The receptionist reached for the envelope then stopped, his hand halting midair. With a strained smile on his face, he pushed it back to me with a single finger. “It appears that you already have a room, Sir.”

He dropped a golden keycard beside my hand. “Room 442. Enjoy your stay, Sir.”

I nodded and spun Alex’s car keys round my index finger once before setting it on the desk. “I’ll need a direct line to the boss and the car washed. Thoroughly.”

He nodded, his smile growing impossibly wide. “Of course, Sir. If you have any other requests, don’t hesitate to call.”

“Of course.” I stuffed the envelope back into my pocket and grabbed the keycard.

“What just happened?” Daniel asked while we walked to the elevator.

I handed him the envelope, not sure of the answer myself until I examined it just now.

“I don’t see what’s so special about it,” he murmured, turning it over and around. “The paper is more than ordinary. It’s worthless.”

“The paper might be common but that sigil isn’t.”

“Oh.” He directed his attention to the cursive script embossed on the flap of the envelope. “LA? What does that mean?”

“Property of The Ghost,” I answered as we stepped into the elevator, smiling to myself when Daniel gulped and looked away before handing the envelope back.

That’s right, I thought, somewhat smug as the doors closed and we began our ascent, keep on making assumptions about me. The more fear you feel, the further from the truth you’ll get.

❄❄❄

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