Raine winced as they applied the last bit of bandages, putting pressure on his shoulder. He motioned for another swig of alcohol. “Where’re we at again?”
“The Superior Knights,” Urban reminded him, peering through the broken blinds.
“I’m surprised you’d go so cheap.”
“There aren’t many places in the Upper District that’ll let you drag a bleeding man into a room without asking questions.”
“I can’t believe that I slept through a whole day.”
Urban laughed, turned and rested against the wall, considering his friend. “If you could only see yourself.”
Raine gulped a fresh bit of relief, wiped his mouth. “Don’t worry, I can feel it all.”
“Looks like you’ve had quite the ordeal.”
Raine motioned to the men in the motel room. The three men flanked him, doing nothing in particular other than watching him. The fourth, Gilpin, was in the bathroom. “Looks like you’ve got yourself quite a mob. Who’re these fine gentlemen?”
“People interested in making sure you get home in one piece.”
“That’s comforting. Can you trust ‘em?”
“They saved you.”
“And how’d you pay them? No wait, let me guess. You wiped their debts. How honorable.”
Urban’s smile twisted rueful. “All for a good cause.”
“Keir will be thrilled.” Raine touched his shoulder, grimaced. His hand went for the liquor bottle, but he stopped himself. “I think you’re betting on the wrong horse. The odds aren’t in my favor. If this is what the first twenty-four hours feels like, shit, I don’t want to be awake for the next three days.”
“Who’d you piss off to deserve this kinda beating?”
“Get rid of your goons, we’ll talk.”
“Take a walk guys. You too, Gilpin.”
Once alone, Urban crossed the room, dragging a battered chair across from Raine. When he sat down, he said, “Where were we—”
“What’re you thinking?” Raine grabbed Urban’s arm. “Gilpin’s a fucking kid. This is no place for him.”
“It’s his decision.”
“And you dragged him along.”
“No.” Urban locked eyes with him, the warmth lost. “He came, he followed. Even if I had told him no, he would’ve showed up. Don’t try to lecture me about responsibility, Raine Morgan. You’ve all but abandoned the Family over the last few days. It’s almost like you didn’t want to be found, since you left Keir without saying a word, and now you’re worried what we’re doing with the pieces?”
“I didn’t have a choice.”
“You couldn’t pick up a phone?”
“No, I couldn’t. I’ve been attacked, forced out of my home. People have been killed for being near me. I’ve done the best I can on my own, trying to keep you, Keir, Na Creidmhigh safe from the shitstorm I’ve thrown into the wind. Instead Keir put out a bounty on me.”
“Oh, it’s the talk of the Dregs. Damn near got skinned leaving Liquor Row.”
“The Family could’ve protected you.”
Raine laughed, hollow, broken. “Right. We’ve done such a great job for the city. Killing people in the streets, dumping them in the gutters, all because someone had a bad day. The only difference between us and the Officers is that we don’t fill out paperwork. I had to take care of this myself.”
“You still haven’t told me what you’re dealing with.”
Raine picked up the bottle of liquor. He took a drink, then another. “Remember those guys who beat the shit out of me? Well, I found them on the docks — with a woman.”
“And that’s been a crime since wh—”
“They were raping her.”
“Well then good on you, those bastards deserved what was coming.”
“I killed the girl.”
Urban stared at his friend, his gaze fierce. The silence stretched. He rose, walked away.
Raine listened to the footsteps, continued, “I didn’t mean to, I just—I got confused. There were two of them, we were fighting, it was pitch black. I thought I had a hold of one of them, then . . .”
“You were trying to do what was right.” Urban managed to sound sincere.
“They got away though. Keir had told me to catch them and I’d failed. I don’t even remember her name.” He paused, this time he took the bottle. “I went home, found my neighbor dead. They’d sent their buddies out to finish the job. There were four, no, five guys. They—There’s one left and I’m sure he didn’t come out unscathed.”
“Is that all?”
“No.” He shook his head, smiled wanly. “A bartender tipped me off, pointed me in the right direction. I confronted Turrell, got this souvenir for the trouble.” He indicated his shoulder. “I also picked up a —” His eyes grew wide and he turned to see Urban staring at him, his face stiff in disbelief. “Did you find the address book?”
“I had it before those thugs attacked me. It was in the alley.”
“We were a bit preoccupied.”
Raine started to object, but he relaxed into his seat instead. “Too bad. Those contacts could’ve let us know—”
A flurry of knocks hit the door.
“We’re not done yet,” Urban cautioned. He pushed off a table, crossed the room. Before he’d gotten halfway there, gunfire echoed in the courtyard.
Raine leapt to his feet, held up a hand. He eased to the window. He glanced at Urban, but his friend stood at the doorway, about to open it. Raine waved, all but shushing him into submission. He moved the blinds aside, seeing nothing out of the ordinary.
Urban unlatched the lock.
“Stop!” Raine shouted.
The door pitched inward, slamming into Urban. He collapsed. It swung back. A hand caught it.
Raine ran forward, tossing his body into the door as a revolver appeared through the gap. He grabbed it, twisting it up. Bullets exploded into the ceiling. He retreated as Carrick stalked into the room, twisted smile planted across his face.
“Look, my own little traitor,” Carrick said.
Raine backed up as the firearm trained on him. He raised his hands palms-out. “I don’t know what you’ve heard, Carrick.”
“A bit of this, a bit of that. You’ve finally got your hands dirty. But you’re dragging our name through the dirt. Keir’s tired of it.”
Raine paused, eyes darting to Urban, back to Carrick. Urban started to rise, shaking his head. He groaned, but Raine spoke, “Keir wouldn’t send you after me.”
“Then who told me about Jaiden Nedrun?”
“Doesn’t much matter at this point.”
Fumbling at the door handle but failing, Urban settled on hands and knees breathing hard as he tried to regain his senses. Urban shook his head numbly, staring like a battered child. Blood coated his face from his broken nose. The door creaked as it slid shut.
Carrick turned to the noise, raised the gun.
Raine closed the gap, then seized Carrick. The bullet flew wide, striking the wall above Urban’s head. That jolted Urban from his daze. He scrambled to his feet.
Another bang echoed through the narrow space. A high pitched ringing filled Raine’s ears as he twisted Carrick’s hand. Carrick’s fingers spasmed, releasing the weapon, letting it fall to the floor.
Carrick whirled, swinging. Raine ducked, pelted his kidney. He threw another punch striking his jaw. Carrick turned from the blow with a jab. Raine lurched back, fell.
Raine screamed, “Get out of here!” His voice came out dulled amidst the ringing.
Urban seemed stuck between wanting to help his friend but being unable to do anything. He retreated from the fighting, back ever closer to the open door.
Carrick cursed and scooped up the gun. He raised it with a deft hand, squeezed the trigger.
Raine’s eyes flashed as the air grew thin. The bullet slowed as the dead air roared around him. Much like the shattered bat at his place, time stretched out. Moving off of instinct, Raine thrust his foot into Carrick’s knee. Carrick twisted, scream hitting the air. Raine clambered to his feet, rage pulsing through his limbs. He pursued the ruthless shooter. The air became whole again, leaving his muscles pounded as he moved forward.
Leaning into his injured leg, Carrick adjusted his aim, let a bullet loose.
Raine dropped to his knees. He hit the ground, found himself facing down the barrel.
“Nice try.” Carrick squeezed the trigger.
Raine struck Carrick’s arm. The weapon flew from his grip. Carrick threw a fist, striking Raine’s jaw, then withdrew. He tripped over himself, then hit the ground with a weak thump. Carrick forced himself up onto his hands and knees and scrambled for the revolver.
Raine lunged after him, but pain sparked through his body and his shoulder seized. He crumpled, face digging into the rough carpet. He pivoted to see Carrick with the gun, fumbling in his pockets for fresh rounds. He breathed heavily, forced himself to his feet, to run.
He tripped, bouncing off the wall. His shoulder erupted in pain as he pushed himself up. Carrick shouted something unintelligible. Neglecting to turn around, Raine darted through the door.
A slug lodged in the wood, shrapnel ripping Raine’s cheek. Shouting, Raine spun to find Carrick’s guards coming on the scene.
Cradling his wounded shoulder, he bolted.