Pink Walls

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Day Three [Part I]

“You know that there are killers in here right?”

I didn’t drink. Or smoke. Or do drugs.

Not because I was righteous or brought up well. I just knew that I wouldn’t be able to support an addiction unless I sold my soul to the devil. And if anything would keep me in Saffron’s fold longer than intended, it would be dependence not loyalty.

Sometimes I wished I could say that being homeless didn’t make me a better person, but it did. My experiences calmed me and taught me priorities; taught me that most of the time rewards came with a lot of pain and sacrifice; taught me that no one could be trusted and that there weren’t any free meals in life.

Before my father finally disowned me, I had lived my whole life thinking that I had problems—problems I needed a drink or ten to smooth out before I could put on am act like the golden child I was expected to be.

As the only son of two well-known socialites, I had standards to uphold and injustices I could only bear with a smile.

So I did. And the moment I couldn’t take it anymore, drank to mute the lies I had to tell and listen to.

But when you didn’t have a warm place to sleep or good food to eat, you tended to forget those ‘problems’ and focus on surviving—if you wanted to survive that is.

I didn’t.

Before Frank found me, I was sure that I was going to die on the streets. I was betting on it, more angry at my father than suicidal.

If I died, I thought it would be all over the news, sully his spotless reputation and ruin his prestige.

Now I knew better—no one cared for the homeless, especially when they died—but back then it was the sweetest revenge I could think of.

Frank beat it out of me then fixed me up and dragged me to Ron like a rat snatched out of the sewers before I could fully process what had happened.

I still remembered that day like it had been yesterday.

Just after sunset it had started to rain, and I had been sitting on the sidewalk watching traffic when the brilliant idea hit me.

Dying would solve all my problems.

I hadn’t even managed to take a step forward when Frank yanked me back by the collar and threw me down.

I fell to the the ground, too hungry to resist the old man and his cane, and he whacked me until I fought back—until I realized that I didn’t really want to die; until I realized the truth.

I had just been hungry, and angry, and hurt.

I had just been lashing out at whatever I could reach, and the closest target had been myself.

That was when I got another epiphany, sitting on the floor of the little shack Frank had once called home while he poured liquor on my wounds. I would live and live well, without my family’s connections and money. Even if I had to work till my bones ached, I would live.

That was the best revenge.

And one day I and my father would sit at a table, across from each other. He would want me back but would be too ashamed to apologize, and I would say no and walk away, better off than where I started under his roof.

That fantasy still played in my head sometimes, as childish as it was. Some days it was the reason I got up early in the morning. Other days it was the reason I pretend like I was the only person on the planet and sleep all day.

“Hey.” An elbow nudged me in the side for the fourth time in ten minutes. “Who drinks coffee at a bar?”

I traced the rim of the glass cup once before finally turning to Daniel. Today he had paired a purple crop top with black skinny jeans, shamelessly flaunting the gem affixed to his navel.

He was in a much better mood, and without makeup too. Him getting piss drunk yesterday might have done the trick for him but it didn’t for me—mostly because I was the one who had to toss him into the bath after he was done throwing up.

“I can’t get drunk on the job,” was the reply I gave him. Neither Alex nor Ron had reached out after that one phonecall so I didn’t know whether the Carmosinos had agreed to stop sending people after Daniel.

The fact that we had gone through all of Monday and most of today without any incidents was rubbing me the wrong way but Daniel was taking it all in stride.

“Come on,” he took a sip of his Sangria and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose so that he could peer at me, “have fun.”

“Coffee is fun,” I retorted and held up the cup. It was normal coffee, the inexpensive kind, without milk or sugar, and still it wasn’t as acrid as the one Frank made.

This was my fifth go at the impossibly small shot of barely passable coffee and I even wasn’t feeling awake yet.

“You are such a joykill, Mr Bodyguard.”

“If you’ve watched any movies you’d know that places like these are where people like you—with targets on their head—get killed.”

“That’s a bit stereotypical, isn’t it?” Daniel’s eyes still scanned the crowd on the dancefloor but he stopped poking me.

His eyes were glittering behind his glasses now. He leaned in my direction, his elbow right beside my arm. “Let’s bet on something.”

“I don’t bet.”

“I’ll bet on you then.” He got to his feet and tugged on my arm.

I just managed to finish my coffee and slam a tip on the counter when he started pulling me away.

“Where are you taking me now?” I only thought to ask this when he led me through the crowd of gyrating dancers.

“The casino!” he replied, shouting to be heard over the music. “What games do you want to play?”

I answered when we got to the other side of the long hall. “I don’t,” I said, holding our keycard to the bouncer guarding the door leading into the Den Of Games, the place where most of the hotels’ occupants carried out their less than legal money laundering if they knew the right people.

We were led in without being searched—which I was thankful for because I wasn’t in the mood to start explaining the knives.

Daniel turned in a full circle, his eyes glued to the glass chandelier dangling from the high ceiling. “Why didn’t we come here yesterday?”

I pulled him to the side before he crashed into a waiter but he just brushed me off and kept walking.

“Because we didn’t have money to lose. We still don’t,” I told him.

“I still want to look around.”

“You know that there are killers in here right?”

“There are killers everywhere,” he mumbled and looked around for a moment, his gaze flitting from the slot machines to the gambling tables. He stared at a spinning roulette wheel for a moment before finally pointing in another direction.

“Look. Darts,” he said. “I wonder how they’re playing.”

I turned to face the group of men playing the game. They were buff, tattooed and too conspicuous to have been here for fun. “We shouldn’t go over there.”

“Why? Do you know them?”

“No. I…” When I looked back, he was gone.

It was just my luck that he chose to disappear now when the end of all this was nearly in sight.

Just as I was about to begin searching for him, someone tapped twice on my shoulder. I turned, hoping that it was Daniel, but was disappointed to see that it was just one of the hotel’s staff.

“Yes?”

“There is a call for you,” she said quietly then held her hand out towards the restricted area in the back. “Please follow me.”

The fact that she didn’t need to confirm my identity meant that she knew who I was, or whoever Alex wanted her to think I was.

I glanced back and found Danny in front of a slot machines. My gaze drifted to the men playing darts then back.

I wasn’t supposed to be taking my eyes off him, but there was only one person that could be calling me right now and I couldn’t afford to miss it.

I turned to the woman and directed her attention to Daniel. “Can you have security watch that person for me?”

I knew that she had found me through the cameras, so there wouldn’t be a problem keeping an eye on the energetic teen while I was away.

“Of course.” Her gaze snapped back to me and she smiled. “We have already received those orders. This way, Sir.”

I nodded and followed her, ignoring the sinking feeling im my gut.

Just a few minutes, I promised no one in particular, and I’ll be back.

❄❄❄

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