Groaning, he grabbed the keys from his pocket to open his car. He blew out a breath and tucked the phone in his coat again as he reached for the door. But just as he did that, a hand clamped down on his shoulder and slammed him against the car. It was so swift and unexpected that he had to take a minute to realize that he was pinned against his car facing front, with his hands pinned behind him and a knife pressed to his neck.
He blinked once. How did he not see this coming?
“Who the hell are you?” a woman’s voice growled in his ears, and this stunned him even more. A woman was maltreating him like this?
He wanted to move, but the knife was pressed too close to his neck. He knew he could easily take her down. He was trained for situations just like this. But he would have to hurt her, and that’s what he didn’t want to do.
“I said, who are you?” she asked again. This time Alexey could hear her voice much clearer, and he noticed that he had just spoken with this woman.
“Sapphire?” he chuckled in a bit of relief. “I think you’re a little confused. Let me go, please; I don’t want to hurt you?”
Sapphire laughed tauntingly at him. “Hurt me?” she scoffed. But without knowing what caught her, she was flipped in a second, and the sharp pain that sprang to her head when the man flung her against the ground had her wincing at impact.
The dagger tumbled from her grip as her hands instinctively rose to the back of her head where she received the blow, and it was then and only then when she realized what he had meant.
As she opened her eyes, she found blue pools staring down at her in slight regret. He held out his hand to help her up, but Sapphire slapped it away and stumbled to her feet on her own.
“I am sorry, Sapphire. I really don’t mean you any harm,” he said, sounding relatively calm and collected.
Still rubbing her head, Sapphire noticed that she recognized his car too. It was the same car that was following her earlier. She threw him a cold gaze, and Alexey didn’t miss this.
“It was you,” she accused. “You were following me.”
“I was, but let me explain.” He sighed, realizing that he hadn’t been doing a good job so far. In fact, he was doing a terrible job.
“You better have a good explanation. Don’t think for a second that because you can fight that I’m afraid of you. I have been here one day, and I have a job to do, so I won’t go down without a fight.”
Alexey surprised her by laughing, and all Sapphire wanted to do was knock the smile from his fame. “Sapphire, if I wanted to hurt you, wouldn’t I have done it already?”
Without saying another word, he reached into his coat and flashed her his badge. Her eyes widened as they darted between him and the badge. He’s a cop.
“I’m Detective Dutin. I’m new at Moscow PD and—”
“Let me guess,” she said, cutting him off. “You’re investigating the mafia.”
He nodded. “I’m not supposed to. When I brought it up to my captain, he dismissed it like a bag of empty chips.”
“I’m not surprised.” She scoffed.
“I’m from the east of Russia, and I didn’t spend months trying to be transferred to this police department, only to be dismissed. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been in the force. They made up their minds, but I’m not ready to give up just yet.”
“Hhmm.” Sapphire nodded as she leaned against his car. “And what exactly is your plan of suicide?”
Alexey chuckled at her bluntness but replied anyway. “I want to get as close to the inside as possible, get information the police can’t turn down and end the Mafia once and for all.”
Sapphire regarded him for a while with a knowing smile on her face. He obviously didn’t know what he was doing.
“Do you even know what you are looking for? What can you find that the police and government don’t already know?”
“I don’t know. But there must be something.”
Behind his big blue eyes, Sapphire could see that this was far deeper than a police’s duty. This was a determination that wouldn’t be shaken, even if it took him to the grave.
“What happened to you?” she asked, and Alexey’s shock told her that he wasn’t expecting her question. But Sapphire had always been good at reading people. She interacted with different people every day at the diner, after all.
Sighing, Alexey dropped his gaze. In some sense, he didn’t believe that telling his business to a complete stranger was the smartest thing to do, but he too was a good judge of character, and Sapphire seemed like someone he could trust.
“My parents were victims of extortion years ago. When they decided to refuse, they got killed.” His voice was flat and void of all emotion, which was utterly contrary to his eyes swimming in hurt.
Sapphire’s heart pained for the young detective. She knew what it felt like to lose a parent. Losing Enrique was more of a gain to her since he made her life hell, but losing her mom was awful.
At least they both had something in common. They were both orphans.
“I had to move to the east with my aunt and uncle, and I decided from there and then that I had to do something about it. At first, I thought about becoming some sort of assassin, where I would kill them all.” His perfect lips tilted into a smile at the childish memory. “But then I thought, why do the same as them? Why right a wrong with another wrong?”
“Ahh.” She nodded in understanding. “So, you became a cop.” The typical orphan story who was wronged by the ‘bad guy’ and grew up to stop them. It was quite sad, and Sapphire found herself respecting him though she still didn’t trust him completely.
“Yes. And for the past year, I’ve been watching them. I know where they are lactated.” It wasn’t much of a secret where the mansion was located. The challenge for outsiders would be getting past the guards alive. “I’ve studied their movements. I know that they all drive a specific type of car. Being in the city, they can easily blend. But it’s not hard to notice that the same types of cars always go in the same direction, and so I found it.”
“And let me guess, you don’t know how to get in.”
“No,” he admitted. “I was thinking of going undercover.”
“Are you crazy?” Sapphire’s eyes widened as she gauged him. “Do you know what they do to moles in the Mafia?” She didn’t have to be there for more than a day to guess it. All she did today was breathe, and guns were pointed at her in all directions.
“I know,” he quickly defended. “But I’d have to get permission from my captain first because I have other duties and cases at the office. It was only a thought.”
“And now you’re at a dead-end,” Sapphire concluded. Finding them was one thing, but taking actual action was almost impossible.
Huffing, she ignored the throb in the back of her head as she asked the one question she had been thinking from the minute she saw that he was recording her. “So, how do you know me? I’ve only arrived this morning. And if you really are a cop, why are you telling me all of this? What if I was working with Valentin, and you wake up dead tomorrow.” Waking up dead wasn’t physically possible, but she wanted to get her point across.
“Valentin…” he mumbled as he quickly grabbed his phone to type the name.
“Shit,” Sapphire cursed. She hadn’t known that Valentin’s name was a secret to society. She could only imagine the look on his face if he discovered that she outed him to the cops.
“I’ve done my research,” Alexey finally said. “I knew the last boss, Enrique, had a daughter and a son. The son is in prison in America, and the daughter, you, are an average diner owner. It wasn’t easy getting this information. Even though Enrique didn’t hide his identity like this new boss, he surely hid you.”
Sapphire wanted to know how he knew this much information, but then she realized that he was a part of the police force. Surely, he took advantage of the resources. He even knew about Eddie. Sapphire hadn’t seen him since Enrique died. He was just like their father.
“I didn’t know you were here in Russia, but I was stalking outside the gates of the Trevoga mansion, and I saw a very unfamiliar vehicle drive out.”
“So, you followed me.”
“I did,” he smiled sheepishly. “I was curious.”
“And when you saw that, it was me?”
He laughed a little as he regarded her as if she was a goddess in the flesh. “I was excited. I was stunned! It was actually you. I never thought I’d see you in Russia. I was only focused on the current Mafia boss, but you can imagine my shock seeing the former boss’s daughter.”
Sapphire nodded slowly as she processed. “That still doesn’t explain why you trust me.”
If he was being honest, Alexey didn’t know why either. But he didn’t believe that she was here to do what her father did. Enrique wasn’t as private and hidden as this new boss, and from the things he read about her and her brother and the claims he made in police interrogations about his little sister, Alexey already knew that Sapphire wasn’t dealing the wrong cards. But he still also knew that what he did was risky indeed. She could’ve been working with this Valentin for a while for all he knew. But her aura seemed far too pure.
“I just—I just don’t believe you were here to run the country deeper in the ground. Don’t get me wrong, you radiate power and authority, but in a good way.”
Sapphire eyed him for a while, still uncertain if she wanted to trust him or not.
“What popped up on your phone that got you so worked up earlier?”
He smiled timidly as he scratched the back of his neck. “I was supposed to meet my partner thirty minutes ago for a case.”
“At this hour in the evening?”
“Jobs like mine are like that,” he sighed. “But I do apologize for getting you flustered.”
She rolled her eyes as she pushed herself from the car. “Well, I am here to do just what you have wanted to do,” she told him. “But here’s the deal, you cannot push your nose too far up in this business. You are trotting on dangerous grounds.”
“I have been fine so far.”
“But for how long?” she shot back. “Look, if you trust me as much as it seems you do, give me time to do this. If it makes you feel better, I will give you updates. But you can’t take down Valentin. As much as I hate to say this, I actually need the bastard.” She shivered at the crude realization. Even if it is not forever, she knew she needed him for the time being.
Alexey observed her in silence for a while. The thoughts in his mind were swirling in all directions. “What if we partner up? We have the same objective.”
“No, we don’t.” She shook her head. Alexey wanted to end the mafia, and Sapphire only wished to improve it. As much as ending it seemed like a better choice, with that many people employed under Trevoga, eliminating the gang entirely would cause just as much trouble for Russia as keeping it Valentin’s way now.
“At least think about it,” he suggested. “I’m not going to stop, and you need a friend.”
“No, I don’t.” She wrinkled her nose at the thought. He didn’t seem like someone she wouldn’t be friends with, but the situation was far too weird.
“Just think about it, okay? I have to go.”
Sapphire didn’t spare him another word as she turned to leave. It was time for her to get back, either way.
“Are you sure you don’t need a ride?” Alexey shouted after her after seeing her stagger a bit.
“I’m fine,” she mumbled under her breath, knowing he wouldn’t hear.
Despite Alexey’s concern, Sapphire arrived at the mansion just fine, even though she swerved a couple times than usual. Most of the people were gone, leaving only guards outside here and there. The door was locked when she tried to push it open, and she groaned in frustration as she furiously turned to a guard.
“Tell him to let me in,” she demanded, and the man immediately called Valentin. She wasn’t being mean on purpose, but her head was pounding.
She could hear the boredom in Valentin’s tone as the guard spoke to him in Russian. She rolled her eyes at the thought. Nonetheless, the door was opened soon after, and Luka appeared, seeming just as annoyed as Sapphire was.
Without a word, she stomped past him and up the stairs, eagerly wanting to get a shower and dinner before bed.
On her way to her room, she passed Valentin just leaving his office. She caught his smirk from the corner of her eyes, and she swung around with her hand on her hip and eyes demanding.
“What’s so funny?” she asked, and Valentin raised an eyebrow at her tone, but his smirk never fell.
“You’re bleeding,” he simply stated.
Both horrified and confused, Sapphire first checked her pants, but there was no sign of blood there.
“Your head,” he clarified, and she finally raised her hand to the back of her head, remembering the blow she got when Alexey flipped her.
She probably had a concussion, and she didn’t know.
“You’ve been in the city for two hours, and you’ve already gotten a beating?” Valentin mocked. “And you want to run a Mafia?” His laugh bellowed through the wide hallway.
Sapphire wanted to claw his eyes out but instead turned on her heels and finished the trip to the room.
Valentin obviously wasn’t planning on making this easy for her. But she wasn’t either.