Pink Walls

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Day Three [Part II]

“I’m sorry I lost him.”

“Ron.” I didn’t waste any time on pleasantries. The moment I snatched the phone from the wall, I intended to get down to business. I didn’t trust Daniel to be alone by himself.

If last night had taught me anything, it was thaf he was a magnet for trouble.

“Kay,” Saffron replied, her voice tired and low, croaky like she had a cold. “You started that fire?”

To answer, I told her the short version of what happened with Daniel and the hitman, casually glossing over how he had pulled a fast one on me.

“The kid drugged you?” She laughed, focusing on the one thing I had wanted her to ignore. I imagined her sitting up in her chair to add more scratches to her desk. “I like him already.”

“He almost got me killed.”

“Almost. That’s the keyword there,” she said softly, a little more sympathetic. “You’re too lucky to die, Kay.”

“Yeah.” I wished I had as much faith in me as she did. My fingers tangled themselves in the phone’s cord while I thought about what to say next. The question about the Carmosinos just wouldn’t leave my throat. “You aren’t upset? About the mess?”

“The police thought it was a robbery that degraded to arson,” she said, her voice a tad lighter. “They’re spinning up a revenge story without me having to pull any strings, so I’ll say you did a good job. I’m glad you found the kid.”

“I’m sorry I lost him.”

“You…” she started then coughed. Her ragged breathing afterwards worried me but I knew better than to ask, not over the phone anyway.

“How is he?” she asked, and I glanced at the door separating me from the rest of the casino.

“Eager to do something other than wait around all day.”

“Then I got good news for him.”

I waited.

“The Carmosinos don’t want Antonia back. Their dogs are on your tail as we speak.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Kill her, obviously.”

I smiled at that.

Despite her emotionless tone, I knew that Saffron was joking. No matter what happened, Antonia was still more valuable alive than dead, and Ron wasn’t one to kill unscrupulously.

“I meant, about the hotel.” I followed my words with a quiet laugh, sure that she knew what I was getting at. “If the Carmosinos find us here, they’ll kill everyone in sight.”

"There is the safest place for you. You have allies, a bed and an abundant supply of knives.”

I rubbed my neck and rested my forehead on the wall, letting its coolness distract me from the strain in her voice. “It’ll hurt the business.”

The hotels were the prime money-makers for the Cisco family when it came to the legal side of things. They dominated this aspect of the industry while the Carmosinos owned a chain of restaurants in the city.

Normally, both parties stayed out of each other’s hair, but after the provocation from Alphaz, tensions were unnecessarily high. If the two families crossed paths there was bound to be trouble—the kind that ended in bloodshed.

“For someone who’s leaving in three months, you sure do care a lot about whether I’m struggling or not.”

I ignored how much that stung but didn’t say anything. I had all the wrong replies and none of the right ones, and I didn’t want to upset Ron when she had other more important things to worry about.

“Sorry, Kay,” she sighed. I imagined her tugging on her earring, the way she always did when she was thinking. “Antonia is a real piece of work, you know? I really want her out of here but I can’t just toss her on the streets.”

“We’ll find somewhere else to stay.”

“You know that I would do anything to help you, but my hands are tied.” I heard the loud clicks of her heels smacking against the floor, which meant that she was on her feet now.

“If any of my men get involved, it’ll give the Carmosinos another excuse to start a war,” she continued and shut a door. “Wherever you go, I’ll find a way to contact you.”

“I know,” I said. “And Ron?”

“Yes?”

Are you okay? “Thanks… for calling.”

She stopped walking and one of her brief smiles flashed through my mind. “Of course.”

I hung the phone back on the wall, cutting the call. I shut my eyes and cupped my face.

What are you doing, Kay? I shook my head. You’re leaving in three months, don’t make it any harder than it has to be.

I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the envelope, opening it for the first time since Alex had handed it over.

When my gaze flitted over all the hundred dollar bills stacked over each other, I realized that I had underestimated both its thickness and Alex’s generosity.

This was the largest amount of money I had handled in years and I had been carrying it like a crumpled napkin.

“Damnit, Alex.”

I would have been less surprised if I found the envelope full of gift cards and coupons.

I couldn’t believe that he had gone as far as bribing, just to get me to stay.

I pulled out a single bill and kept the rest.

Too bad money isn’t the real issue, I thought, pushing off the wall and nodding at the woman who had led me here. Her sudden reappearance only made my uneasiness grow, so when she nodded back, I got out a knife and held it between my fingers.

My gut had never been wrong before and I wasn’t about to turn a deaf ear to it just because I happened to be in a safe haven.

I smiled and held the bill out to her. She returned the smile and politely took the tip, inadvertently revealing the little cross inked on the inside of her right wrist when the sleeve of her uniform rode up.

And now I owed Alex one, because his money may have very well saved my life.

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