Ruin (Page 42)

Ruin (Songs of Corruption #2)(42)
Author: C.D. Reiss

That had been the only time I’d crossed the length of the tunnel to the house on the other side, and the gritty trip back to the club had been uneventful. But I poked the memory to see what had changed, and just about everything had.

I looked at the one remaining window then down. The wall beneath it was solid, and cool to the touch, as if stone through and through. The panel to the carriage house tunnel had been bricked over. The tunnel out was a dead end, literally and figuratively.

We’d have to figure something else out. The tunnel was blocked, and we couldn’t use the grate exit.

—Where are you?—

I didn’t know if I’d ever get used to Antonio just demanding my location, but knowing we were in a special circumstance, I tamped down the offense and went outside to call him.

“I’m looking at a house,” I said. He’d know what I meant.

In the background, I heard sirens and men shouting.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

“I’m fine.”

“What are the sirens?” It wasn’t unusual to hear sirens in the background when someone called from outside, but they’d never caused my chest to tighten and my breath to shorten before.

“Don’t get in your car. Otto will come for you.”

I didn’t ask. He wouldn’t tell me over the phone.

As if he’d been nearby the whole time, Otto showed up ten minutes later with a half-eaten sandwich in his lap.

“Hey, Miss Drazen. You have the beemer?” He opened the door for me.

“It’s down the block. What happened?”

“The blue Mas is gone. Pieces of it are still falling outta the sky.”

“What?”

“Car bomb.”

“Is he all right?” I asked, even though I knew he must have been, or he wouldn’t have called.

“Everyone’s fine. Spin caught a bit of shrapnel in the leg. The thing went off when he unlocked it. I’m telling you, that shop has taken a beating. They gotta start over.”

“Who did it?”

“We got our ideas.” He said no more.

thirty-five.

antonio

I never saw the bomb that went off in Napoli, the one that had my wife declared dead. It had been a column of smoke over the mountains. Then, when Zo had met me halfway down the mountain to tell me what had happened, I didn’t breathe until I saw the circle of black and the carcass of the car.

The bomb in Los Angeles was so different I didn’t make the connection right away.

The shop had just come back to life and was populated with men hauling wood, wielding nail guns, and shouting to each other. They’d gone to the Korean pizzeria for lunch, leaving tools behind and work undone, but the garage had been reframed already.

When I unlocked the Mas as I was heading toward it, my mind was on Theresa and how she’d fare without her family. I doubted she’d make it, yet I had to believe she would. I was thinking I needed to choose whether to believe she could stay by her word or to doubt her when the car hopped as if animated. The motion was barely visible, and the tires never left the earth, but only became more circular at the bottom, losing the weight that flattened them to the ground.

I only had time to kiss the ground, as if I’d kicked my own legs from under me. The sound deafened me, blasting the top of my head, velocity of the air pushing me back an inch or more, and a rain of glass followed for the next sixty seconds.

I spent that entire minute convincing myself to breathe, because I’d never been that close to a car bomb.

My life was getting simpler and simpler. I was being pushed through my options one by one until I had none left. Seemingly all at once, I’d gone from having a few enemies and a couple of soured relationships to being a target.

The forensics unit was in the process of clearing every scrap of glass and metal; every speck of carbon and dust went into a bag. I wasn’t treated like a victim, even when I sat outside the back of an ambulance, but a criminal. I was questioned for an hour about my whereabouts that morning (Zia Giovanna’s, which was verified) as if I’d blown up my car for the insurance money. Once they realized who I was, the tone of the questioning changed. My shop was cordoned off with yellow tape, and the contractors were questioned. I knew they’d walk away untroubled and come back the next day. They were my men. If they weren’t trustworthy, they wouldn’t work for me.

I went through the questioning before an EMT saw the blood on my trouser leg and pulled me into the ambulance, sitting me down as if I couldn’t do it myself. She was insightful and gentle, with a straight brown ponytail I might have taken a try at pulling in the past.

“What kind of car was it?” she asked while she cut my pant leg, her plastic gloves wrinkling at the knuckles.

“A Maserati Quattroporte.”

“This year’s?” She spread the pant leg open. A piece of metal was lodged in the muscle of my calf.

“Last year’s. I liked it too much to get a new one.”

“Nostalgia. I get it. This is going to hurt, Mr. Spinelli.” She squirted the wound with a blue liquid that stung nicely. But I knew that wasn’t what she was talking about.

“This your shop?” She didn’t look me in the eye. She was pretty, even as she held onto the metal with a pair of sterile pliers. Carefully, she pulled the metal out of the muscle. It did indeed hurt.

“Yeah. Past five years or so.”

“Looks like it’s taken a beating.”

“Rough month,” I said. She pulled out the last of it, holding it up for me to see.

“The car was blue, huh?”

“Custom paint.”

She plunked the metal into a tray. “Nice.” She squirted the green liquid to clean the wound. It wasn’t that bad. The expectation of pain was always worse than the actual thing.

“Looks pretty good,” she said, peeling the skin away, looking for debris, squeezing her liquid in the crevices. “I can take you to the hospital if you’re worried about scarring.”

“Scars are the proof we’ve lived.”

She looked up at me. “You’re going to have a really nice bit of proof here.”

I took my cigarettes out. I needed one. Not for the gash in my leg. I didn’t care about that. But the bomb made a good impression as a message. The bomb was a flexed muscle, a chambered bullet, teeth that were bared and ready to rip a throat. But only if necessary. Next time I wouldn’t be so lucky, in theory. That was what I told the police.

I leaned my head against the side of the truck and let the pretty EMT clean my leg. I wondered what the hell I was doing, and why. Money? Power? My vengeance was complete. I had nothing. My family was an ocean away. I had no partner. My business was burned down. I wasn’t the lawyer I’d wanted to be. I had no future outside of a beautiful woman who would tire of my secrecy soon enough. I wished I’d been inches from that car, because I was exhausted from running, from hunting, and from keeping secrets.