Raine held his bleeding shoulder as he weaved through the gaggle of shoppers. The red lanterns spilled light across the faces, warping the consumers into shades. He bumped into a stall, knocking the wares into the gutter, but he stumbled on.
Shouts followed, distant, hollow. His arm had gone numb, lost to emptiness. No pin pricks, no oscillating pain, just a dull extension of himself. Turrell’s book tugged on his shoulder from inside his jacket. He spat to the side, a bloody mess of flesh struck the pavement.
A loud crack filled the air. Raine spun on his heel. A pack of children darted out from behind a stall, their laughter spilling out of the mob. Another explosion of fireworks hit the concrete, thinning the crowd. The lights intensified, burning into his eyes.
He leaned into an alley, away from the main lane. Shattered bulbs left him sheathed in darkness except for the halo from the thoroughfare. As he released his grip on his shoulder, a groan escaped his throat.
Steadying himself against the wall, he reached into his jacket pocket. He breathed in heavily, grasping at the book’s edge, tugging. It didn’t budge. His brow creased as he yanked. A seam popped and it flew from his hand. It hit the ground with a splat, fanning out black blood in the gutter.
“What do we have here, boys?”
Four youths strolled down the filthy lane, dressed in matching suits, canes planted on their shoulders. At odds with their surroundings, these upper crust gentlemen had come to prey on the weak. On Raine.
Raine looked up, tried to smile, but fell to his knees. He reached out to catch himself, then fell atop his wounded shoulder. A scream hit the air, followed by laughter from his companions.
“Looks like he’s had a tussle. Should we help him out?”
Raine shook his head against his swimming vision, fighting the need to sleep. He fumbled for the book, smearing blood in the process.
The first kick struck his hand. The second, his face. A cane caught his shoulder, digging in, tearing. A warm gush surged from the wound. He tried to reach for his shoulder, but a boot pinned his arm to the ground.
A shout reverberated in the alley.
Recoiling from the sound, his body stiffened, curling in on itself. The clomp of retreating boots echoed all around him, telling him nothing. He forced one of his eyes open, but the scene blurred together in muddy blacks and Day-Glo colors.
“Damnit Raine,” a distant voice muttered. “Looks like you’re pissing off all the wrong people. Gilpin, Manal, help me.”
The world swirled, even after he closed his eyes. A scream pressed at his lips as foreign hands pulled him up, but he suppressed it, preferring to simply sleep.
Maybe then he’d wake from this nightmare.
Carrick laid out the reports, one by one. Each had printed in big block letters, NOTHING TO REPORT. He’d set the entire city out looking for that bastard with that damn bounty and no one had taken him up on it? Raine didn’t have that much fucking clout. He sipped a cocktail, fighting the rising anger welling inside him.
He threw the glass across the room. It exploded against the wall, coating the plaster in a running mass of orange. He cursed, pulling out a pristine cigarette. “What the fuck do I have to do?”
He’d sent out his best agents, assured that they’d have Raine within the hour. Instead, a fucking day had passed and none had showed their faces. Better that they hide. Carrick stared at the fragments.
One of the lower family members appeared, a cousin perhaps, and Carrick spat out, “Clean that up.” He turned from the mess, stormed to the back of his apartment. Entering his sitting room, he stood at the window, staring over the courtyard. Lines of people waited for justice.
Craving another drink, he braved his living area.
His cousin, and the spill, had disappeared. Instead of calming him, it only infuriated him further. He grabbed another glass when the phone rang.
He set it on the counter, snatched up the phone. “This better be fucking good.”
“I’ve got Raine, Carrick,” Gilpin whispered.
“I told you to call me sir.”
A silence filled the line. “Yes, sir.”
“Good. Now where is he?”
“We’re at a motel on the fringe of the—”
“I need it’s name.”
“The Superior Knights. Room 116.”
“How’s he doing?”
“He’s pretty torn up. Urban’s got a few of us watching the place though. Do you need me to do anything?”
“Can you put a bullet in him?”
“Kidding.” Carrick chewed the inside of his cheek, heart pounding. “We’ll have a few guys on the way to pick them up. Na Creidmhigh thanks you.”
“No problem, Carr— sir.”
Carrick hung up the phone. Of all the hands he’d sent out, Gilpin — that fucking traitor — had actually found Raine. He smirked at the irony, considered a drink to celebrate, then remembered his purpose. Crossing the room, he ripped open the door. The guards flinched, straightened.
Carrick said, “Let’s go. We’ve got some bastards to hunt.”