Sham jumps out of his car before it even pulls to a stop. He enters the business first, forcing Luca to follow behind. I can’t hear all that’s going on, but I see the shopkeeper back up in surprise as my men enter the business. He waves his hands and then rubs them together in a begging motion.
Sham collars him and drags him into the back room where the equipment is busy churning away. There’s a long iron press to the side. Sham drags the man all the way over to the press and shoves his head down. Another man produces the sales agreement. Sham doesn’t even have to pressure him more than a minute before the dry cleaner signs off on the deal. I turn the camera off with a satisfied smile. Project 438 will start tomorrow. I grab a cigar and snip off the end. I’m about to light it when I hear, “Boss, you there?”
I flick on the camera. Sham is waving at me. “What’s the problem?”
“There’s a girl here. He’s got someone in a cage.” The camera pans to the corner of the room, where a large wire dog kennel sits. Inside of it is a small figure, her legs hugged to her chest. “Should I just leave her here?”
I almost say yes but something stops me. “No. Bring her in. If he was keeping her alive, she might have some value. Let’s not be wasteful.”
Sham gives me a respectful nod, and the camera goes black. Humans kept like pets? And I’m supposed to be the bad guy.
I’m shaking. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get myself to stop. I suck in a deep, long breath, trying to calm down. The trunk of the car I’m in is nicer than the cage. At least I can stretch out my legs partly. I have no clue where I’m going or why the men took me, but I do know who they are. They are part of the Santino crew. Everyone knows who Kane Santino is. Even me, who barely gets to leave my father’s shop.
He’s always kept a tight leash on me. I thought after I graduated high school, I’d be free. How wrong I’d been. The leash only got tighter, and anytime I tried to get away or he thought I was acting out, into the cage I went.
Will I be auctioned off? Sold into the black market? To be honest, I can’t find the will to care. All I do care about is getting this shaking to stop. I let my mind drift and even out my breathing. The darkness of the trunk is soothing. Only the hum of the engine can be heard. Finally, the shaking subsides as does the hum for the engine.
I’m blinded by light when the trunk opens. Hands grab at me, pulling me out. I blink, trying to see where I am, but my eyes don’t adjust until I’m pulled into a house. The marble flooring is cold on my bare feet.
“Can you stand on your own?” asks the man who’s holding my left arm.
“Yes,” I answer. Both men release their hold on me. They’re the same ones that entered my father’s shop. Without thinking really, I reach for the other gun that one of them has tucked into the front of his pants. I don’t think he was expecting me to do it. His eyes widen with shock as I stumble backward, my ass hitting a table with a giant vase filled with flowers in the center of the entryway.
I hear the vase fall, shattering when it hits the ground, the water soaking my feet. “You don’t want to do this,” the one I think I heard the other call Sham says, his gun pointed at me. I point mine right back. The brute of a man I took the gun from is still dumbstruck. “Do you even know how to use that?”
“Yes.” I flick the safety, preparing to do whatever I need to. Father always kept a handgun under the register. I’d seen him play with it before.
“What the fuck is going on?” A deep voice booms through the room as another man strides into the entryway. He pauses. I only catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye. I don’t have to look to know he’s bigger than the two men in front of me. “You’d be dead before you pulled the trigger,” he informs me.
“Maybe that’s the point.” My voice cracks. Not because I’m scared. I barely spoke a few words today, so my throat is dry.
“Put it down, Sham.” The man drops his arm without hesitation, following the order. He keeps the gun in his hand, though. “Now what?” the man asks. I turn my head to get a better glimpse at the bigger man, who seems to be running things. It’s Kane. It has to be.