Page 13 of Blood Bound

“That’s ‘cause no one’s allowed to,” I grumble, scanning the dark streets for something, anything, I might have missed. Finn is right, th

ere doesn’t seem to be another soul in sight. Truth is, I wouldn’t be surprise if every cop in the city has been told by some boss or another to stay away from this area. Gianni made it known to all of the officers in his pocket that there was to be no investigation into what happened last night, as did Vadim Volkov, the head of the Russian Bratva, to his men.

“You don’t think some cops could help search for Santino?” Finn asks.

I scoff at the suggestion. “Cops never help anything.”

“Geez, thanks.”

“Have you driven by that diner yet? Are their lights still on?” I want to go back and check the spot where I was shot, but the place was still open the last time I checked.

“Lights were off last time I drove by,” Finn confirms.

Good. Maybe there’s a clue there that will help be solve this whole stupid puzzle.

“Hey, why aren’t the Russians even slinking around tonight? Don’t they want Santino as bad as anyone?” Finn asks over my earpiece, as I march away from his patrol car towards the darkened diner.

“Because they were respectfully asked not to,” I answer. A cool breeze whips across my exposed face. The wind isn’t nearly as bad tonight as it was last night. Still, as I approach the diner where I was shot, I hear the loud racket of a makeshift saran-wrapped window flapping around in the breeze. “My boss wants the opportunity to personally gift Santino to them, as a show of apology for what happened. It’s up to me to make that happen.”

“Want backup right now?” Finn asks. I’m sure he’s worried about me returning to the scene of the crime. He might even think I’d have a hard time snooping around a place where, just over 24-hours ago, I was shot. I feel no such hesitancy. I’ve been shot before. It’s an occupational hazard. I need to figure out where Santino’s gone, and the diner’s the last piece of the puzzle I haven’t already traced over.

“You stay back at the intersection,” I order. “Just let me know if you see anything.”

Under the streetlamp closest to the diner, I can see the stain my blood left behind on the sidewalk. I take a deep breath and my arm aches under its bandages. The flimsy window ruffles in the wind in front of me. At least I won’t have any trouble getting in.

I claw at the saran wrap until I create a hold big enough to fit through. When I step inside, I’m surprised by how warm it is. Even with the cold air coming in through the puncture wound I just made, I feel immediately wrapped in heat. I don’t think too much about it as I scan the floor for clues. There’s no sign of blood or glass—someone must have put in a good day’s work cleaning up my mess.

Suddenly, an uninvited vision of that woman who’d met my gaze last night flashes behind my eyes. My chest stirs. I sneer and ball up both fists, trying to use the pain from my arm as a way to distract myself from her image. She was beautiful...

The wind from outside seeps in through the saran wrap and tunnels through the diner. A low, rumbling howl fills the room. I don’t see anything that might help me with my mission. If there had been a clue here somewhere before, it’s gone now. I have to give it to whoever runs this store, they’re tough. Most people wouldn’t want to stick around to tidy up after an incident like that.

I can’t stop myself from wondering if that waitress came back. She didn’t look away when I sneered at her. In fact, she’d sneered back. Warm blood pulses through my body at her memory. Those eyes... those lips...

Suddenly, I hear a sound break through the white noise of the wind. I tense up and whip around towards the source of the disturbance. The diner’s kitchen door swings slightly behind the counter. I relax a little. Must be the wind.

Still, the commotion causes a new thought to cross my mind. If Santino’s not already long gone and on the run by now, he’s going to have to eat while he hides away. Maybe, just maybe, he circled around back to Chinatown after our altercation, because he knows this area well enough to disappear in.

If he knows where to steal food from, he can hide out around here for as long as it takes for the heat around him to die—and me with it.

There are a couple of small grocery stores, as well as a dozen or so restaurants on this strip. An experienced scavenger could make due here for as long as he needed, unless a real predator showed up to stop him. If Santino’s come back to Chinatown to hide out, this might be around the time he’d come out to go looking for food.

It’d almost be too good to be true if he just so happened to start here.

I won’t be caught off guard again.

I tense back up and unholster my Glock, slowly creeping towards the swinging kitchen door. I make sure to turn my earpiece off. The only sound is that of the seeping wind; it’s enough to cover the noise of my footsteps against the tiles.

Come out to play, you bastard.

I click the safety off of my gun and slowly push the kitchen door open with my foot. I stop when I catch a sliver of light down the dark hallway.

Someone’s here.

I let my finger fall over the trigger as I slide through the doorway. When it shuts behind me, I can barely hear the wind outside anymore. My footsteps become as loud as gunshots. There’s not going to be any sneaking up on whoever’s on the other side of this next door.

I get ready for a fight and slip into the darkness at the edge of the hallway. The dull ache on my left arm slowly fades as my heart pumps a barrel full of adrenaline into my veins. I grind my canines and flex my fingers. I’m not going to fuck up this time.

Suddenly, though, I hear something unexpected come from the other side of the door at the end of the hall. I stop trudging forward and I listen for it again. Silence fills the tense air as I wait—until, suddenly, I hear it again.

Tags: Sasha Leone Crime