“Thank you, Capo. Can I take time to decide what to do with it?”
I reached up to kiss him, twisting my fingers together behind his neck. His tongue hit mine, filling my mouth with aggression and lust. His hands went up my shirt, shoving my bra out of the way with his fingers, thumb teasing my nipple as he pressed his hardness against my hip. Would he take me in that filthy store? Knock me against the metal shelves and drag me into the dark back room? Yes. Yes, he would.
He kicked the door shut. And that slam threw me off for a fraction of a second, so that when the other sounds hit, I thought they were echoes of the door. When Antonio threw me to the floor, I thought it was part of his seduction. I was primed for hard, lustful, thoughtless sex.
But the door kept slamming, and his weight on me was not amorous. His breath came in gasps on my neck, hot and sharp, and he held my wrists down hard enough to bruise.
Glass broke, plaster popped, and what I thought was the crack of a slamming door was no less than the constant pop pop pop of gunfire. And my body under his, with the threat of death a sudden stink in the room, was on fire.
It stopped. I didn’t know if whoever it was, was reloading or getting out of the car to finish us off. So when I had a second, I let go of Theresa’s wrist and pulled her up. It was not graceful or chivalrous. I had no time to apologize, and she didn’t have a second to ask what the hell had happened. I pulled her into the back so fast she almost tripped. It would have been fine if she had fallen. I would have preferred to have dragged her.
No windows. It was dark and infested with a cloud of flies louder than mere machine guns.
I heard her say my name, a question in her voice. Next, she’d ask who, how, and why. Only the last question had answers.
Because there was no peace. No truce.
Because my name was Antonio Spinelli, and this was my life.
“Antonio.” She pulled against me when I got to the back door. I yanked her close.
“No questions now.” I growled it harder than I should have, knowing I’d regret it in retrospect.
I turned to her. The light from the front room reflected blue on her eyes. I held my hand still on the door.
The car. A blue Maserati, parked in the back like a cursed beacon.
We stared at each other. She was right; we were trapped.
The windows were boarded. I peeked out, holding her hand. She wasn’t shaking. She wasn’t even sweating, but her lips were parted, and she looked ready to fuck. I considered taking her, but gunshots wouldn’t go unnoticed, and a yellow Ferrari pulled up next to the Mas. It was the man himself.
“Stay behind me.” I unlocked the door.
“No, Antonio. Wait.” She was flushed, but still sharp. Her eyes flashed, scanning my face. Oh, she wanted to fuck all right, and yet, she seemed more alert, as if her arousal was mental as well as physical.
Paulie, who had been a friend to me, sent a chill up my spine when he got out of the car and stood on the hood.
“Spin!” Paulie shouted. “Come out.”
“I should go in front,” Theresa whispered.
Paulie held up his hands. “I got nothing. I’m unarmed. I promise; I ain’t gonna do nothing.”
“He’ll never shoot me,” she said.
Paulie called out before I could answer. “If I wanted you dead, I woulda come in and done it already.”
That son of a whore. He knew it would bother me that he had control. And if I asked for concession for Theresa, if I made sure she walked away, it would be perceived as weakness.
“You stay here,” I said.
“He knows I’m here. He could have come in the front. Listen.”
“I got a news flash out here, Spin.” It was Paulie again. Like the buzz of a fluorescent light that you couldn’t fix.
“We have to go out side by side,” Theresa urged.
“Listen to me,” I said. “Do not speak. Do not make a move. Do not insinuate yourself. Do you understand?”
“You will stay behind me, not because he’ll shoot either one of us. If he kills me, he’s a dead man, and he knows it. If he touches you, his life isn’t worth anything. But if you come out at my side, I will look weak. Do you understand?”
That last statement was a lie. I wanted to protect her in case Paulie had lost his mind or brokered a deal for my life that I didn’t know about. A man has to live with himself and God, and I’d already alienated God.
“Behind this wall right here.” I touched the wall by the doorframe. “Stay in arm’s reach.”
I tried to remind myself that that was Paulie out there. That was a guy who had helped me avenge my sister, who laughed at my pronunciation then helped me get it right. That was a guy who’d thought of us as partners from the minute he met me at the airport. He jumped down from the hood of the car then pulled his gun out of the holster and dropped it in the front seat.
The thup-thup-thup of a helicopter came over the distance.
“They’re coming, Spin. Come on. We got about five minutes.”
I opened the door. It was brighter outside than I’d expected, and I fought to keep my hand from shading the sun. It would look like a sudden movement.
“Come in, then,” I said.
“Where is she?” He kept his hands out, an unusually wise move from him. I would have shot him dead if he’d reached for a pocket.
“You try and kill us, and you want to know where she is?”
Theresa stood right at my side but behind the wall, unmoving. I could smell her perfume and shampoo. I could hear her long breaths and the ticking of her watch.
I did not sense fear on her.
If she’d been scared, I could have moved too quickly or made a rash decision. If she’d been whimpering or crying after being shot at, I might have put a bullet in Paulie without a second thought. But she wasn’t afraid. Thank God for her.
“I aimed over your head,” Paulie said. “I was trying to get your attention.”
“You were always impulsive. Always reckless.” He grinned and looked at his shoes for a millisecond.
I’d enjoyed and feared his impulsiveness at the same time. He’d been valuable, but I’d so often had to smooth over an overzealous shakedown or unnecessary insult that, in the end, I stopped letting him manage politicians by himself.
He still needed me. But I didn’t need him, and that scared him. He wasn’t breaking with me because of his ambition; I had to remember that. This break wasn’t about money, and it wasn’t about power. It was about fear.