Ruin (Page 18)

Ruin (Songs of Corruption #2)(18)
Author: C.D. Reiss

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“About?”

“Your accountant?”

“Dime a dozen.”

“He went to Paulie?” I asked.

“Everyone loves a winner.”

I leaned against a circular-saw table and crossed my arms. Antonio put his hands in his pockets.

“You just nearly blew Paulie’s head off,” I said.

“Give me credit. If I wanted him dead—”

“And he shot at us.”

“He was aiming over our heads.” By his tone, I could tell Antonio wasn’t defending Paulie but mocking his excuse as one would mock a child who blamed his baseball bat for the broken window, again. “Asshole. I don’t want to kill him; I want to rip his heart out.”

“I mean it. We have a deal.”

“I know, Contessa. We have a deal. I hope to God that you live to be the most beautiful old woman in history.”

“I need you to end this, Antonio. Before I lose you. This has to stop.”

I put my arms around his waist, and he held me so close I felt the blood in his veins.

fifteen.

theresa

I woke up the next morning in a panic. My rib cage felt like a twisted coil around my lungs. I needed to get out of bed, or my spinning brain was going to lift me six inches off the mattress.

I couldn’t think about Antonio, where he was or who he was meeting. He’d conducted his business his whole life without getting killed. I had to assume he knew what he was doing.

Daniel was a talking head again. Polls were looking better, but the outcome was touch and go. The local elections were scheduled for March. Four months. I knew Daniel. He wasn’t done with Antonio and me. He was gathering clouds for a February storm.

My phone buzzed. I snapped it up without even looking at the caller.

“Tee Dray,” said a familiar voice.

“Directrix. How is it going? Do you need me?”

“Uh, yeah. Have you ever been in for questioning?”

“By whom?” I asked.

“LAPD. I lost half a day of edit.”

“What did they want?”

“Why don’t you come by? I have some questions about your notes. It would really speed things up if I had you around this afternoon.”

***

Katrina hadn’t been sheltered as a child. Her parents hadn’t had a lick of money until middle age, and by then, their daughter had been exposed to enough of the realities of Los Angeles. She knew how to answer questions from the police, something I’d given exactly zero thought to my whole life.

“What happened?” I whispered as she walked me down the hall.

“Remember the day your hot boyfriend came with food for the crew?”

“Yeah?”

“They wanted to know about that.” She stopped at the editing-bay door. “They wanted to know what he was wearing, where you went for dinner.”

“What did you tell them?”

“Everything.” She opened the door.

She went in like it was nothing, and I got in behind her and slammed the door closed. We were alone in the darkened room with only the blue light of the monitors highlighting the curves of her face.

“Like what?” I asked, my tone an accusation.

“What?” She shrugged. “He came. He brought dinner. To seduce you, I figured. And nice job, by the way…”

“Were they asking specifically about me?”

“They’re lawyers. They don’t need to ask. But yeah, that’s what they were getting at.”

I tapped my fingers on the back of the chair. There was an equation at work, with Daniel sitting to the right of the equal sign.

“He said he was done protecting me,” I said. “Looks like he meant it.”

“Have you done anything? What happened with Scotty?”

The loan shark Scott Mabat, had shaken down Katrina for her post-production money, threatened her life, refused payment, and eventually run afoul of Antonio. He’d landed in the hospital and was back on the street in a week.

“I pointed a gun at his head and pulled the trigger.” I said it as if delivering the news at nine. Who knew what looking death in the face had done to him? If he’d felt threatened enough, he might have gone to the cops, which would have eventually led him to Daniel.

“You what?” Katrina said.

“It wasn’t loaded.”

“Okay, Tee.” She held her hands out as if pushing me away. “This is way, way out of my league right now.”

“I didn’t shoot him.”

“What do you want, a cookie? Holy fuck. Holy fucking fuck. You’re pulling triggers on people?”

“He was going to hurt you,” I said.

“Oh, no. No no no no. Just, no. I would have gone to the cops.”

“And lost the movie?”

“Which I’m going to lose anyway, right now, if my script supervisor and the woman financing postproduction shoots people. Holy fuck, no! They can freeze your assets. Then they can stop post. Everything here can go to hell! God dammit, Theresa!”

“Next time someone threatens to gang-rape you, I’ll just give them your address.”

She growled, closing her eyes and clenching her fists, as if the anger inside her had to be released before she could say another word. “God, Tee Dray!”

Quick as a snake, but with better intentions, she wrapped her arms around me, squeezing my elbows to my sides.

“Can you lighten up? I can’t breathe.” I pushed her away. “Did the lawyers ask how you were financing post?”

She pulled back and dropped into a chair. It swiveled and squeaked before stabilizing. “No.”

“Then why do you look so guilty?”

“They asked if Antonio was involved with the movie. I said no. He just brought dinner that one time, and it looked as if he was trying to get into your pants. They asked if he did, and I said I wasn’t sure. And before you get upset, that’s the best answer to give them, because it’s all about the doubt, and since I never saw you actually doing it…”

“I get it,” I said.

“So, they asked every detail of that night, and if I’d seen him again, and I told them I saw him at your loft the night you banged up your car.”

I sat down. I had entered a non-emotional state, and I just took in everything she said. Much could be missed if I got upset or let her push my sympathies.

“From beginning to end, Directrix.”

“They said Scott went to the hospital. He wasn’t coherent for days, but when he started talking, he implicated me in getting the shit beaten out of him but wouldn’t say anything else. Now, I was at my parents’ place in Orange County, and there’s a credit-card trail and a dozen people who saw me getting drunk at my old hangout. So, first they threatened me, but I knew they had nothing. Then they started asking questions about you and Antonio. I denied everything because I never thought you’d be involved. And I still can’t believe it. Still.”