Thirteen ~ Butch
“Are we sure we shouldn’t involve the Marshals?” Shin asked for the tenth time as five o’clock came and went. “I just think we need back-up here. Maybe they can set a trap for her somehow and…” He rubbed at his eyes. “I don’t know. I just think this is all going to go badly if we don’t have some kind of law enforcement backing us up.”
Ian rolled his shoulders and sighed. “We don’t know how high up the corruption goes, Shin. Obviously, Carlotta has a Senator on her payroll. Securing some friends in the Feds or Marshals would be easy for someone with her influence.”
“But if she did have someone in the Marshals, wouldn’t she already know where Sterling and Garnet were?” Shin asked.
“The kid has a point, Ian,” I said as I made another lap of Ian’s massive office. Diamond was stretched out on a blue leather sofa, silently listening while Amber, covering him like a blanket, slept like a contented cat. “She wants Sterling purely for vengeance. She wants all of us to suffer. If she had an in in the Marshals, she would have found him by now. She’s come up empty on every other path, so now she’s using Caliste as leverage.”
Ian ran his hands over his red Marine haircut. He looked as exhausted as I felt. “If we call them in, we run the risk of Carlotta finding out. I think we should stick with the plan that we’ve worked out and when it’s all said and done, then we call the Marshal’s to arrest her. We’ll have evidence then.” I made a rude sound. “Butch, I know you don’t want to hear this, but if she gets a whiff that we’re working with anyone, she will kill him. You know it. I’m shocked that they didn’t execute Amber when they had him.”
I threw a look at Diamond, whose bright blue eyes glittered with suppressed rage. “That plan leaves Onyx in Ralph’s fucking hands for over twenty-four hours. He could be torturing him right now!”
“I don’t think so,” Ian calmly said. Easy for him to say; it wasn’t a fucking madman holding his man captive. His man was sitting on the floor, half-asleep, chewing on his lower lip. “From what we’ve gathered, Raphael seems to have a fixation on Onyx. He views him as some sort of prized Stepford wife. I think he’ll simply keep him close and play out whatever kind of warped Ozzie & Harriet scenario he has whirling around inside his head.”
“So we just, what?! Go to sleep and have cotton candy dreams while Caliste is suffering who knows what kind of physical or mental abuse?! Fuck that. Fuck you. If you’re not man enough to help me go look for him now, then I’ll go alone!” I grabbed my jacket off the back of a stupid modern chair and stalked to the door.
“Butch, be reasonable,” Ian wearily said.
“Fuck you and your reasonable shit. I have to do something!”
“If you go bulling out without a plan and fuck anything up, all you’ll do is harm Onyx. Is that what you really want?”
That brought me up short. I paused in the doorway. “Fuck you, I quit.”
“Good, I was going to fire you anyway. Go walk your frustration off. When you’ve calmed down, come back and we’ll finalize this plan.”
“Asshole Scot,” I muttered as I stalked off, jacket thrown to a corner, tie following.
“Bring some food back when you return,” Ian shouted after me.
I flipped him off with both fingers, then made a call to the Chinese buffet about two miles up the road. I’d meet them at the first guard station and pay for the dinner. The walk outside would do me good. Ian was right, I was letting my feelings for Caliste fuck up my critical thinking skills. This is why I never got involved with someone I was hired to protect. Ian was an exception, but that was more brotherly love. What I had growing for Caliste was way beyond friendship. I should have acted on it sooner. You’re always too late…
I shook off the image of my mother’s dead eyes and picked up my pace. The office building was deathly quiet, and I was glad to leave it behind and get some fresh air.
There were a shit load of research and development plants here, as well as four huge office buildings. Every employee had been sent home. We’d called it a bomb scare. Which I guess sort of fit. Carlotta Bianchi was a bundle of TNT with a short fucking fuse and an Armani purse. And she was vindictive. A trait that I understood growing up where I had and how I had. Still, this bitch took paybacks to a whole different level. I made a circle of each building and then walked the perimeter of the grounds, mind spinning, until I happened upon a small outdoor patio for employees. I sat down on a cement bench and pulled out a crumpled pack of smokes. The cigarettes were so bent and mangled from years of riding around in my pockets, I had to toss a few away. After salvaging one poor specimen, I rummaged in my pockets for a lighter or matches. I pulled out a pack of matches from the Calypso Room.
“Fucking Ralph,” I said, then struck the match and lit my rumpled Newport.
I knew I should have run with my gut on that man. No way should I have let Caliste meet with him for brunch. I should have stood my ground. Not that the man was mine to command, but if I had been firmer, then the whole disastrous day could have been avoided. I should have cut the meeting off with the Senator sooner. We should have walked out the moment he left us waiting. Could have, should have, would have. I exhaled a cloud of toxins, then looked skyward. My whole life I’d been too late to save the people that I cared about. The dead, glassy glaze of my mother’s eyes when I’d found her lying naked in her room, vomit on her chin, shoelace still tied around her bicep still woke me up at night. Why had I not gotten home sooner that day? Why had I been out prying hubcaps off cars with my friends? Why did she not love me enough to get straight? Why did she love whoring more than me? Why, why, why?
I took another shaky drag, the late afternoon sun making my eyes water. Man, I had hated hookers for so long. Every time I saw one walking the streets, I saw dead eyes and it reminded me of her. The false smiles, the fake laughs, the smell of cheap perfume, the cries of despair. I’d taken all the rage at my mother for leaving me to fend for myself at such a young age and channeled it into any prostitute that I saw. Why the fuck I’d taken Ian to a whorehouse that fateful night was anyone’s guess. I’m sure a shrink would say that I’d been hoping to revisit something with my mother. The men who worked there had the same hollowness in their gazes.
I smirked and wiped at my watery eyes with my left hand.
What sense did it make to go to a place that brings you incredible pain? What kind of stupid act of flagellation was that? Might as well strip naked and go roll around in a patch of poison ivy, making sure to drag your balls and asshole over the most poisonous plants in the patch. It had been an asshole move that had forever altered the course of Ian and mine’s lives. Then Ian, the big asshole, had bought the place and made me part owner. Fucking clever, maneuvering jerk. He knew that I’d have to confront the demons of my past and make peace with sex workers. And so I had. Hell, I’d not only made peace with the guys and befriended them, I’d fallen for one of them. Fuck, but I was sick with worry over Caliste. This sitting around planning was killing me. While I knew preparation for any kind of action was critical, all I could picture was Ralph touching Caliste, forcing him into doing something that he didn’t consent to…
I took another drag, then dropped the smoldering butt into a smoker’s tower next to my bench, my vision red, and pounded my way to the main gate. There were two men on duty at each check point, and twice as many patrolling the fenced-in outer perimeter.
“Mr. Hurler,” one of the men said as he handed me a big takeout bag of food.
I passed him a hundred. “Keep the change. Anything suspicious?” I asked, my sight darting up and down the tidy little four lane.
“Not a peep, Sir.”
“Good. Thanks for this. I’ll be making another sweep sometime later,” I tossed over my shoulder as I walked away.
Better they be on their toes and not know when I was coming back around. I trusted the men that I’d hired, but still, sitting in a shack was boring as fuck and minds wandered. I didn’t think we’d see any kind of frontal assault on a highly secure facility such as Blue Moon, but who knew. Carlotta was obviously a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Still, if they had something important to us, which they did, they could chill. Give us ample time to get Sterling for the swap. As if we could simply pluck someone in witness protection from his hiding place and trade him off like a Topps baseball card. The woman was certifiable and that made her dangerously unpredictable.
When I walked into Ian’s office, all eyes flew from the desk they were gathered around to me.
“I hope you got lots of soy sauce,” Ian said. “Also, we’ve decided to call the US Marshals and get their assistance.” I glanced at Shin. He gave me a small nod. Amazing what that kid could convince Ian to do. I guess that was what love did to a man. I hoped I’d someday be able to explore that with Caliste. “You two can stop gloating. They’ll be here within the hour. Let’s eat while we can.”
Hang in there, baby. Paris awaits.