Ruin (Page 51)

Ruin (Songs of Corruption #2)(51)
Author: C.D. Reiss

“Say something dramatic. Like you’re in a movie. Something like, ‘If I can’t have you, no one will.’”

The phone. If I could get to the phone, I could blow up the truck. If I could blow up the truck, there would be enough of a distraction to get away. Or he’d run away. Or Antonio would wake up if he had a breath of life in him. Anything was better than this.

“Irene wants you,” I rasped, blinking blood from my eye. “She told me in the bathroom.”

The grip of his hand over mine loosened. I didn’t have much control over my limbs, with half my brain checked out, but I pulled and yanked against all resistance, from his hand, the floor, the wall. The advantage was enough, and I got away.

The phone. Face down. There. I dove for it, but Paulie put his foot on it.

“She said what?”

“She said I could have Antonio. She was fighting for you.” My fingertips touched the phone.

He moved it an inch farther. “Why should I believe you?”

And why should he? I drew lines and connections in my mind and, through the haze, found an answer that could buy me time.

“She texted me to meet her there. In the bathroom. To tell me.” I lurched for the phone, and he shifted it another inch. “I’ll show you.”

He paused, standing above me, considering.

“I have no idea what she sees in you,” I said. “So don’t ask.”

He smiled down at me. “If I see one tap on that glass I don’t like…” He moved his foot. I grabbed the phone and pressed the home button for one, two…

Three seconds.



Paulie tilted his head, watching.

Six seconds on the home button.

Nothing exploded.

On seven, he knew there were no texts, and I knew there was no bomb. He kicked the phone from my hand.

“Worthless.” He dropped on me, knee first, knocking the wind out of me, and wrestled the gun into my hand. He pointed it at Antonio. I tried to wiggle away, but he had me under his weight.

Antonio gasped and heaved, getting up on his elbows. I croaked his name and he turned.

“Say goodbye.” Paulie squeezed my hand around the trigger.

Antonio rolled, and as if consciousness was equivalent to utter situational awareness and agility, he was on his back with his gun at Paulie’s head as the pressure on my hand became enough for the trigger. A bullet lodged itself into the floor where Antonio’s head had been. Every surface on my body got red hot as I realized I’d almost shot him.

“You’re aiming over my head,” Paulie said, taking my moment of surprise and using it to shift the gun back to Antonio. His hands were hot on mine, and once Antonio rolled, the sweat poured off them despite his cocky words. “You got blood in your fucking eye.”

“Let her go, Paulie.”

“When you’re dead, brother. When you’re out of my way. You been a drag on me from day one, and I’ve had it.” He squeezed my hand. My palms were dead dry. How did I do that? How was my body an icebox in the face of so much menace?

But Paulie’s hands were greased. Strong and slick with sweat. I fought against him, and he tried to force me to shoot Antonio, moving the barrel across the room when his target moved. The pressure was too much. The trigger snapped, Antonio rolled, and a bullet landed in the wall in a pop of plaster dust.

Antonio’s gun went flying and a line of blood opened up on his arm. The bullet had grazed him before hitting the wall.

I screamed, and an ice-cold, thoughtless panic took hold, because that man was my only chance at life, my one last gift of happiness and intimacy, and I’d shot him. I couldn’t feel myself breathing.

Paulie moved me with Antonio, so the gun stayed pointed at him. But he had to move his elbow off my shoulder to do it, and I yanked myself away. His hands slid over mine, and I twisted, the pressure on the trigger still hard enough to discharge the gun. I took out a lamp.

Paulie and Antonio dove for Antonio’s fallen weapon, and Antonio lost, rolling away as Paulie stood and pointed his gun at him.

“How do you like this, you fucking dago wop motherfucker?”

Antonio had his hands up, sitting akimbo, one shoulder to the wall. “You do this, you’re going to have to answer for it.”

“Fuck you!” he moved the gun when he spoke with his hands, pointing at his ex-partner with his unladen hand. “You leave us, you leave me, for her, and who answers for it. Huh? You don’t. You dropped everything we had for a little pussy.”

“We had business.”

“Business? I loved you!” He blurted it out, and before he even got to the third word, I saw the shock and horror on his face.

He wouldn’t let Antonio live after admitting that. It was all over his face. And after half a heartbeat, his body responded, leveling the gun at Antonio and pulling the trigger.

“No!” I heard my voice but didn’t feel the shout in my breath. I swung to Paulie and squeezed my weapon. And after the very raw memory of almost shooting the man I loved, I did something in the ice-cold emotionless place I dwelled in.

I knew what I was doing.

It was not an accident.

And as if he saw my intention on my face, Antonio yelled my name.

But it was too late. Of my volition, I squeezed my fist more tightly, by an infinitesimal amount, and shot Paulie in the head. A bloom of red broke out under his wide-open eyes, and his head thunked down.

Sweat broke out in my palms, and the gun clanked to the floor, splashing in the growing, comma-shaped pool of blood.

My corruption was complete.



I moved, and he missed. And when he went down, it took me a second to realize why.

I played at standing straight, but my eyes had fog in front of them, and my balance was uneven. Even with my senses at fifty percent, I knew what was happening, and I gathered what dexterity I had to stand. To yell her name. Then, I had to hope she’d missed, even at a meter from his face.

Theresa, my Contessa, who stood straight and aimed her words like arrows, didn’t miss. I didn’t know it from the drop of Paulie’s body because I wasn’t looking at that. I was looking at her, only her. My grace. My sweet olive blossoms rotting on the branch.

She dropped the gun, and the sound cleared my mind.

I scooped it up.

“Capo,” she whispered. Whatever cold, collected woman had shot Paulie was gone, and she shook from elbows to fingertips, eyes wide, lips parted. She had a sentence to finish, but apparently not the breath to do it.