Day Three [Part III]
There was only one difference between a Carmosinos’ hunting dog and a regular hitman: they didn’t disobey.
If their master asked them to be a shield, they would. If they were asked to take their own life, they would hold a gun to their temple and go out smiling.
But of course, no one would be stupid enough to tell such an obedient employee to kill themselves, not after all the effort and money used to train them.
They started off as misunderstood children with nowhere to go—homeless orphans usually—who were recruited then groomed year after year to be ruthless and unfeeling until they cared about nothing but the family they served.
They weren’t brainwashed, just well-behaver, loyal to a fault and grateful for another lease on life. After all, only a handful of them survived the training process in the first place.
I always wondered what would have happened if the Carmosinos had gotten to me before Frank had. Would I have eyes as cold as the unfeeling ones staring back at me right now? Would I kill without caring even a little bit?
“Is there a problem, Sir?” the woman asked, her smile falling at the edges. It was a fake one, but it was passable.
I shook my head and turned to the door.
The dogs followed orders. If they had been asked to kill me, they would be quick about it. The fact that I was still alive meant that there wasn’t a target on my head, yet. And there was still a chance that they didn’t even know that the person I had been with was Daniel.
I felt the cool metal of a pistol’s barrel press against the back of my head the moment my hand landed on the door’s handle. Where she had gotten it from, I wasn’t able to guess.
I let the tension leave my shoulders and raised my hands. “What do you want?”
With my eyes fixed on the spot in front of me, I started counting in my mind. A plan was due to spring up any moment now.
This was the last thing I had wanted to happen but if a fight was avoidable I wasn’t going to be the one that started it.
“Where’s the cub?”
Ron had just told me that the Carmosinos were on my tail but she hadn’t said that they had gotten here.
What sort of coincidence was it that I bumped into one the instant the call ended?
It was probably just shitty luck—something I was more than used to by now.
It was common practice for the Carmosinos to send their killers undercover to one of the Ciscos, or other rival gangs’, businesses. It usually happened to those who were thought to have gone rouge—they were completely cut off and few were ever taken back into the fold.
“Well?” she asked, increasing the pressure she put on the gun.
“I lost him,” I admitted, the gears in my mind working hard. “You heard my call didn’t you? I’m here to have fun, not work.”
“I’m not.” I tried to turn around but she forced me to the door.
I groaned when I slammed into cool metal, ignoring her hands as she patted me down.
She wouldn’t find anything, especially since she was in a hurry. I had changed shirts and gotten myself a jacket. The knives were in the custom-made belt Ron had given me as a birthday present a year ago.
It was the hardest thing to unbuckle if you didn’t know how.
When Ron handed it to me and called it my chastity belt, the whole room had burst out laughing.
The Ciscos thought little of me but the Carmosinos thought I was nothing but a good-for-nothing bed warmer. My reputation as a reloader in the gang was what kept me alive all these years, so I doubted it would fail me now.
In most minds I really wasn’t a threat, and no one argued otherwise.
Ron’s enemies would rather use me as a hostage than kill me straight away, which was the biggest mistake they could make because most of the time none of them lived to tell the tale.
“Open the door,” the gun dug into my lower back, “and keep moving.”
I obeyed and we both stepped into the crowded casino.
The worst thing that could happen was for her to fire her weapon, at me or anything else. The moment the gunshot rang out, the casino would descend into chaos.
Others would certainly join the mayhem and innocent bystanders would not only get caught in the crossfire but form a panicked horde that would swallow Daniel whole.
Losing him again wasn’t something I was looking forward to, so it was best to let my surprise killer do what she wanted until I could tell him to stay low.
Luckily for me, the opportunity came sooner than later. I saw Daniel before he saw me.
When he spotted me, he let go of the pool cue in his hand, about to call out. I shook my head slightly and held up my hand before lowering my palm slowly till it was parallel with the ground.
I allowed myself watch him take a step back, watched his eyes widen as he realized the sort of situation I gotten myself into.
Of course, he couldn’t see the gun from where he was but he was smart enough to know what must have happened.
My mind made up, I dropped to one knee.
“Hey! What are you doing?”
“I tripped.” I turned my head and was whipped with the pistol so quickly I was sure no one else had seen it. Now I was sure that I had all her attention.
I did, holding onto my throbbing cheek, then I opened my palm and held my fingertips to my ear, sure that Daniel could still see me.
“You don’t know where the kid is either.” I laughed. “You’re just stalling. You’re rouge.”
“Get to your feet.”
“You think holding me hostage will make them welcome you back?” I rose and turned to her, letting my hand fall. “Face the facts, you’ve been abandoned.”
“You!” Filled with aggression, she took a step forward and the pistol dug into my stomach.
“The Carmosino family can only have so many hunting dogs,” I told her with a small shrug, “and you stopped being one a long time ago.”
“Do you think I won’t kill you just because you sleep in the bed of the city’s kingpin?” She laughed and touched her face, palming her cheek and covering her left eye with her fingers. When she was quiet again, her hand fell to her side and her expression morphed into something terrifying. “I will enjoy hearing you scream while I break everything in your body and bleed your heart into a cup. You will beg for mercy, and I will not grant it. Tell me where the cub is and I will make your death painless.”
“If you kill me, you will only bring trouble to Antonia,” I pointed out, keeping my voice even and calm. She had to know that I felt far from threatened, that was the only way this was going to work. “Do you want that?”
“An… Antonia?” A flicker of recognition flashed through those dead eyes.
“You didn’t hear?” I smiled, remembering how Alex had dragged her up the steps of her own mansion to drop her at my feet. For a moment, I let myself soak in the feeling of getting revenge on the woman that had wanted to use me as a toy before granting me the mercy of death.
“Antonia was captured,” I whispered, leaning forward so that she could hear me clearly, so much bitterness and hate in those little three words. When her eyes darkened, I added, “If you kill me, do you think Ron will be merciful and spare her?”
“No,” I answered the question myself and smiled just as darkly. “And you will be responsible for that death, too. Would the family take you back then?”
“No,” we said together and she fixed a hateful glare at me.
“Good.” I forced my tone to be smug. “You had a mission here. Now that you have revealed yourself to me, how will you complete it now? You can’t kill me without bringing harm to your mistress, but if you don’t kill me I will tell Ron that you snuck into her territory. I wonder what you will do then.”
A new determination flashed through her eyes. As the coldness grew, I could almost see her fixation on Daniel disappear.
And that meant that he was safe… for now.
“Move.” She shoved me forward.
“Where are we going now? I already told you that I don’t know who you’re looking for.”
“Forget about that,” she hissed. “We are leaving the hotel. Right now.”