Water pelted the concrete, a barrage of curses from the sky. Cale led the way, head down against the rain. He’d noted the eyes on them, but he doubted Terach cared one bit. They stopped at a doorway, both leaning against its frame. Terach rolled his shoulders, knocked three times in a sharp, terse beat.
The door opened a quarter of an inch. A suspicious eye appeared in the gap, looked the Officers over. Jaiden said, “I told you what I knew.” It slammed shut.
Terach stepped back, crashed his foot through the wood.
“Whoops,” Terach offered as he crossed the threshold. Cale followed after. “Sorry about that.”
Jaiden stood with his back to them, fingers clenching, releasing. “Don’t worry about it, Officers. I’ll add it to my growing list of needed repairs. May I offer you a drink?”
“Why thank you,” Terach said, brushing moisture from his sleeves. “That would be lovely.” He pulled off black gloves and shoved them in his pocket. “Scotch, on the rocks.”
Jaiden rounded the corner, but Cale moved over to watch him, hand on his gun. He wasn’t taking any chances with this kid. He may have saved him from Raine, but he didn’t have to like the situation.
The sound of the ongoing storm filled the living room. Cale’s eyes wandered to the broken window. A green tarp had been hastily taped up, sealing out the rain, but not much else. The front door swung loose on its hinges, letting the neighbors hear everything that passed between them.
Jaiden returned carrying the drink, his face a mask of a host who didn’t appreciate the job. Terach rubbed his hands together then reached for the libations. Jaiden stumbled and the glass fell. Spinning in the air, it doused Terach’s pants, then struck the ground with a crash.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” Jaiden retreated a few steps, playing the part of clumsy server to near perfection. “I’ll go get a towe—”
“No no, that’s fine.” Cale held up his hand as Terach wiped at the expanding wet spot. He shot a glance at his friend. “We’re just fine.”
“Let’s just cut through the bullshit,” Terach said. “Why did Raine want to track you down?”
“I have no idea. He just showed up here, screaming at me. I’d never seen the man before.”
“Funny, we have reports you guys had quite the meet up four nights ago. At the Key Note. You and Turrell took quite a thrashing from him. Word is you did your fair share of damage as well.”
“That was him? You know barroom brawls. Never do recognize the assholes after you’ve rearranged their faces.”
Cale and Terach exchanged looks.
“Well there’s your answer! He couldn’t handle being bested and came for another round. Case solved,” Jaiden said.
“Not quite. A scuffle isn’t enough for the heir to Na Creidmhigh to hunt down a . . . gentleman of your caliber. Much less your partner.”
“Well, he didn’t succeed. Thanks to you, Officer.” He smiled at Cale. “I’m grateful. Truly.”
“Too bad for Turrell.”
Jaiden’s face hardened. “You know—”
“What’s your business?” Terach piped in.
“I’m self-employed. Contract work.” His gaze didn’t leave Cale’s face.
Terach nodded as if satisfied. He pulled out his gloves and began to slip them on. He paused then said, “You might want to get that door fixed. I’d hate for someone to show up after you just survived such a close call. Maybe it’s time for you to move to a better neighborhood.”
Cale smiled with all the sincerity he could muster. “Yeah, we can’t always make it here in time.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Jaiden said, leading them to the split doorframe, “I think I’ve got a guardian angel looking after me.” His eyes met Cale’s and he winked.
Cale clenched his jaw.
“Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Nedrun. We might drop by sometime to ask you a few more questions,” Terach said.
“Of course, Officers.” Without smiling, he closed the door in their faces. Even as he walked away, the door started to swing back open.
“Asshole,” Terach muttered. He swatted at his pant leg as they moved to the end of the building.
“At least you had time to enjoy the Scotch.” Cale smiled despite himself.
“A bit of a waste.”
“Yeah, after the day we’ve had, I needed something to take the edge off.”
“I meant the visit.”
“Oh.” Terach glanced back at the apartment. It disappeared from view as they turned the corner. “I wouldn’t say so.”
“He thinks he’s covered, which he pretty much is. We’ve got motive, no real wrongdoing on his part other than being drunk and aggressive. And a shitty host. Which means he’s going to head out soon. He’ll fuck up, Raine will show, and we’ll nab ‘em both in the act.”
“I’m impressed. Didn’t think you had it in you.”
“Well, I didn’t get where I am by my good looks.”
Before Cale could respond, Terach tapped his wrist and held up a finger. He turned his back, took a few steps away. “We’re at the Nedrun residence. Could you send an Officer out here to watch over the place? Yeah, he shouldn’t know we’re there. Thanks, I’ll catch you la— What? Oh shit. Yeah, we’ll be right there.” He pressed his wrist once more. “We’re wanted back at the station.”
“There’s another body on the docks.” He paused. “It’s a boy.”
“There’s an incident at the docks. Adrian found the body. Carved.”
Rage flicked through Cale’s eyes. Heat poured down his neck. He closed his eyes, tried breathing in and fighting the anger. “What did I tell you?”
“Look, we don’t know it’s him.”
“The hell we don’t.”
“It could be an imitator.”
“Either way. I should’ve been there, instead of running around the damn place chasing after a guy killing scum.”
“Don’t pin this on me. You would be passed out, feeling sorry for yourself if I hadn’t come to get you.”
“Lot of fucking good that did.” Cale walked away. He left Terach standing there.
Cale turned the corner without another word.
Caked in the blood of his brothers, Urban tried to remain as motionless as possible. He had scratched away most of the flaky remains, but didn’t have the energy to continue. Instead, he searched the darkness, trying to keep his thoughts away from his inevitable death. It hung over him, coated him like the stench of shit and piss filling the room.
The little light he had came from under the door, partially blocked by the heels of Carrick’s soldier. The guard had barely moved.
Muffled speech filtered through the adjacent room. Urban perked up, ignoring his body’s curses for remaining stationary for so long. Suppressing a groan, he lifted to his knees, which cracked with the movement. Placing a tentative ear against the wood, he strained to hear, but the speaking stopped. He repositioned himself, pressing the whole of his weight into the barrier.
A violent bang shook the door. Urban crashed to the floor and laughter leaked in from the other side. It petered out as he rubbed his ear. In silence, he watched the light falter then expand as the guard moved away.
He stared at the unobstructed space. A realization dawned on him that he might be alone. Then something moved.
A folded sheet slipped through the gap.
He pushed himself up, snatched the page. He tore it open, then realized he couldn’t read in the dimness. He dropped back to the ground, angled the page in the thin glow.
“We’ll come for you.”
Hope fluttered through him, but he pressed it down. This could be a trick, too easy for them to slip the message in. Carrick must’ve set the whole thing up.
But the feeling persisted.
The feet blocked his view once more.
They would come for him. He hoped they’d be quick about it.
Carrick wouldn’t wait.