Worth fighting for, p.18
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       Worth Fighting For, p.18

         Part #2 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley
 
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  I nodded, glancing over at Ray again, unwillingly replaying memories of the airport and the immense disappointment I’d felt at seeing him, not Jamie. My feet seemed glued to the ground as he and Jamie walked to my side.

  “I just have to go take care of something. I won’t be long. Ray is going to take you upstairs and watch out for you while I’m gone,” Jamie said, leaning into the car and picking up my purse, handing it to Ray.

  “I just want to go home. I don’t need someone to watch me,” I replied, trying to put some authority into my voice but failing miserably when it shook with emotion.

  Jamie sighed deeply and stepped closer to me. Too close. I could take one step and melt into his body, wrapping my arms around him and hiding there until everything went away. The pull to do that was almost overwhelming.

  “I can’t take you home, not yet. Ellie, those guys were after you because of me, so I need someone to protect you while I go take care of the thing I need to do. This is important,” he explained.

  Those two guys had been targeting me? It wasn’t some random attack? And it was because of Jamie? None of this made sense. I glanced back at the dashboard, thinking about the gun and knife housed within, and swallowed awkwardly, a shiver running through me.

  When something touched my shoulder, I started, my eyes darting back to Jamie. “I’ll be back soon and I’ll explain everything, I promise. Please just go upstairs with Ray, so I don’t have to worry about you. I need my mind focused right now. Please? Can you just do this for me?” His eyes implored me, the rich color hypnotizing me into submission, just like he’d always had the ability to do.

  I nodded. I didn’t really have much choice in the matter. It was clear he wasn’t going to back down, and I didn’t have the strength left in me to continue standing, let alone argue my point.

  Jamie smiled. “Thank you. I’ll see you soon and I’ll explain.”

  Ray stepped forward, his hand wrapping around my upper arm, taking some of my weight as I stepped forward on wobbly legs. “Let’s get you upstairs and I’ll make you some tea. It’ll calm your nerves,” he said softly as I let him lead me blindly along.

  As Ray stopped by the elevator and pressed the button to call it, I glanced over my shoulder and saw that Jamie had already climbed into his car. Our eyes locked through the windshield. I gulped at what I saw. Terrifying, murderous Jamie from the parking lot was back, and this time I wouldn’t be there to stop whatever he was planning to do.

  CHAPTER 19

  JAMIE

  I COULD BARELY sit still as I drove away from my apartment, leaving Ellie with Ray. My hands flexed on the steering wheel as I scowled out the window, thinking about just how close I’d been to not saving her. I’d parked on the street at the side of the parking lot; I hadn’t thought there was any danger to her, so I’d let her park in the lot alone so she wouldn’t see me. If that second guy hadn’t sped past me and rushed into the lot, I never would have known anything was wrong.

  “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” I growled, slamming my palm down on my steering wheel a few times in frustration. Rage burned through me at the memory of pulling into the lot to see that guy’s hands on her. I groaned, clenching my jaw and unclenching it, fidgeting in my seat and pressing my foot down harder on the gas. My anger was like a monster, clawing at my insides, demanding to be let out. And I would let it out, I didn’t care what she’d said. Mateo would die for this.

  I drove in silence for a while, letting my rage simmer, and then I hit a couple of buttons on my car dash and the speaker started calling Dodger. He answered on the third ring. “Hey, Kid,” he said, his voice cheerful as always. Sometimes it pissed me off to high heaven.

  “Dodge, two of the Salazars’ men just attacked Ellie and tried to kidnap her.” I almost spat the words, the acid of them tasting foul on my tongue.

  “What the fuck? Is she okay?”

  “She’s fine.” Thank God. “But the two assholes who attacked her aren’t.”

  “Who were they?” Dodger asked.

  “I don’t know, but they were definitely Salazar crew. They had the ink.” My mind flicked back to the scene and the snake-and-dagger crew ink on the guy’s forearm. “Listen, I need you to do some things for me.” I checked my mirrors and signaled, heading south toward the nearest of my clubs.

  “Sure. What?” I could hear him moving around in the background, probably getting to a place we could talk.

  “I need you to call Detective Lewiston, tell him you have a couple of points of interest for him, but he needs to find his own source for the record to back up the story.”

  I’d already thought through everything—I couldn’t hit everywhere at once—but I wanted the Salazars ruined, run out of town, or dead. To do that I’d need help. Detective Lewiston had proven useful before, and he would come in extremely handy for the next few hours.

  “Okay, what am I telling him?”

  “Tell him you know of three drug labs in connection with the Salazars. Give him the addresses of their labs in Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, and the Bronx. Tell him the police should raid them as soon as possible because you’ve heard they’re packing them up and moving to new premises in the next couple of hours,” I instructed, pulling into the parking lot of one of the smaller clubs I owned. It was only an evening and weekend club, so would be closed this time of day. Perfect.

  “Meantime, I’m heading to their meth lab in Long Island. I have a feeling Mateo might be there.” Reaching into the back of my car, I picked up my gym bag and opened it, pulling out an old tee that I kept in there to work out in. As I spoke, I ripped it in half with a loud shredding sound, and then in half again, my mind already focused on what I was going to do.

  “If you’re going there, then pick me up,” Dodger affirmed. “I’ll come with you in case there’s trouble.”

  I smiled at the gesture but shook my head, dismissing it. “There won’t be many people there, and the ones that are will most likely be high, anyway.”

  “And Mateo,” Dodger added, his tone concerned.

  “I can definitely handle that fuck stain,” I hissed. “Look, I gotta go. Make the call but tell Lewiston he’ll need to pay some hooker or druggie to validate his story and go on record saying they gave him a tip. It can’t come from us,” I instructed, impatient to take action.

  “All right, I will. Give me the address where you left the two guys,” Dodger said. I reeled off the place where I’d left them and Dodger asked, “Are they dead?”

  I closed my eyes, wishing they were and that Ellie had let me finish the job. “No.”

  “Okay, I’ll have someone find them, too.”

  “And have someone take Ellie’s car to her house. It’s the green bug.”

  “Will do. Where is Ellie now, want me to have someone pick her up?” he replied.

  “She’s at my place with Ray. He’ll watch her until I get back.”

  “Okay, that’s good. I’ll go make the calls now. And, Kid, be careful, all right?”

  “Yeah.” I disconnected the phone, climbing out of the car and heading to the back door of the club. I let myself in and stomped up the stairs straight to the bar, pulling out four bottles of whiskey. As I suspected, at this time of day no one was around.

  That’ll be plenty, I thought, setting about customizing the bottles and then carefully setting them upright in my knapsack. Once satisfied I had everything I would need, I drove to my warehouse, swapping my car for one of the unmarked ones registered to a fake address and name so it couldn’t be traced. I quickly changed clothes too, putting on a hoodie and tugging the hood up over my cap just in case.

  From there, I made the drive to the abandoned building where the Salazars cooked their shit, hoping Mateo was there so I could end it quickly. I wanted to get back to Ellie and tell her she was safe—and fucking mean it.

  Pulling up at the end of the road, I got out and jogged down the street, hiding behind a small crumbling wall opposite their lab, edging up to get a
good view of the place, stopping next to a large scorch mark on the grass. Their burn pit, where they disposed of their chemicals. I turned my nose up in disgust and looked over the wall, surveying the area.

  The large building opposite me was derelict looking; basically an old graffiti-covered tin shack with blacked-out windows. At one point this would have been a storage unit for an industrial company or something, but now it was used to make hundreds of pounds of crystal meth, or “ice,” as it was known on the streets.

  Staying hidden, I looked left and right, seeing the other buildings in this small industrial-type compound. One was half fallen down, one side missing and panels of the roof hanging precariously like they could fall any second. The only other building in the area was a small brick-built hut that could have once belonged to the security guards who would have watched over this place. There were holes in the roof and the windows were smashed in—clearly no one was using it now. Three cars were parked on the abandoned space off to my right, none of them nice enough to belong to a Salazar.

  Remaining still and quiet, I watched, waiting for my opportunity and deciding if I was just going to burst in. Less than three minutes later, my opportunity presented itself. A guy walked around the corner of the building, staring at the screen of his cell phone, clearly engrossed in whatever he was watching. The security guard making his rounds. I smiled to myself, pushing the strap of my bag across my body so it wouldn’t fall off and pulling out the gun I’d confiscated from the guy who’d attacked Ellie earlier. I had untraceable guns of my own I could use, but I found it amusing that I might get to kill Mateo with one of his own crew’s weapon—I did love a bit of irony.

  The security guard stopped, his back to me, put one hand on the door handle, and then let it drop back down to his side as he leaned against the wall, deciding to finish watching what was on his cell instead of going back to work.

  I stood, holding my bag steady against my hip as I ran the short distance across to him. He was so engrossed in the TV show, he didn’t even hear me approach until I pressed the barrel of the gun against the back of his head. His whole body stiffened, his hands coming up in a reflexive action, and I saw that he was watching The Walking Dead.

  “Don’t move and you’ll live through this,” I ordered, pressing the gun harder against his scalp as I leaned forward and took his cell phone, turning off the video and shoving it into my bag. “Put your hands behind your head,” I instructed, stepping back and moving the gun to dig between his shoulder blades instead. He did as he was told, interlacing his fingers behind his head, his Salazar ink now in full view on his forearm. “Good. How many other guards are there?” I patted down his body, finding a knife and a small handgun strapped to his waist. I removed both, carefully putting them into my bag.

  “Just me,” he answered, his voice a lot younger than his face suggested.

  “If you’re lying...” I pushed the gun harder into his spine.

  “I’m not, I swear,” he replied quickly. He turned his head and his eyes widened. “Oh shit, you’re Kid Cole.”

  My reputation precedes me again.

  I nodded slowly. “Uh-huh. Is Mateo inside?” I almost growled his name, my anger flaring again.

  He shook his head. “No, he hasn’t been here for a couple of days.”

  A groan of frustration left my lips. I’d really been pinning my hopes on him being here. “How many people are inside?”

  “Three, just three.”

  “And are you expecting any deliveries or collections anytime soon?” I asked, glancing up the road, seeing it was still clear, not a passerby in sight.

  “No, we had a delivery this morning,” the guy answered. Part of me believed him, but I still needed to be careful. I didn’t know what or who would be inside.

  “What’s your name?”

  “Stan,” he replied.

  “Okay, Stan. Slowly open that door so I can see in”—I nodded to the door he was going to go through earlier—“and remember, if anyone starts shooting, you’ll be the first to die.”

  He gulped and nodded. “There’s no one else here apart from the chefs.” He slowly opened the door wide enough that I could see it led to a little security office with a desk and a monitor on it.

  “Go in,” I ordered, shoving him forward a little to get him moving because his feet didn’t seem to want to cooperate. He stepped into the office and I cautiously looked around, seeing that it was empty. “Go over to the desk.” He did as he was told again, walking around to the desk with me in tow, the gun on him at all times.

  On the monitor were three grainy black-and-white moving pictures—one of outside behind the building, which was clear and empty; another of the front of the building, where we’d just been standing; and the last inside the lab itself. Three people wearing white lab coats, rubber gloves, goggles, and masks were inside, just as Stan had said.

  “Okay, we’re going to go in there nice and slow. You’re going in first.” I reached out, putting my hand on his shoulder and holding him at arm’s length ahead of me as I raised the gun, aiming over his shoulder, ready for anything.

  Stan nodded, walked to the door slowly so I could keep pace with him, and opened the heavy-looking metal door, letting it swing inward, allowing access to the vast lab. As soon as the door opened, the scent of ammonia and solvents burned my nose and made the back of my throat itch.

  The chefs didn’t even look up from their work as we entered. I glanced around quickly, seeing all manner of things piled high in the room: stacks of cold pills, bottles and bottles of bleach, large bags of salt, empty soda bottles, cans of drain cleaner, and compressed gas cylinders along with so many other household items that it looked like the cleaning aisle of Walmart.

  Chemical stains marred the walls, and large, long tables had been set up along the center of the room where the chefs actually did the cooking. On another table to the right, their finished product lay in plastic bags, tied securely. There was easily a couple of hundred thousand dollars’ worth of ice sitting on that table. As I stepped farther into the room, using Stan as a shield, my eyes started to water from the stench of cleaning fluid, and I wondered how these guys stood it all day. They had flimsy cloth masks over their mouths and noses, but that wouldn’t do much to keep the chemical burn from reaching their throats, surely. Stan clearly felt it too, because he coughed, hacking loudly, and then spat on the floor, making a disgusted sound in his throat.

  That caught the attention of the chefs, and two of them looked up at once. The other continued to work, humming a little tune that sounded suspiciously like the Disney song “Bare Necessities” while using a turkey baster to suck up ingredients and add them to a Pyrex dish.

  “Nobody fucking move,” I ordered, pointing the gun at each one in turn. The third guy stopped humming when he looked up and saw the gun.

  All three of them stood stock-still, their eyes wide and terrified; they weren’t gang members or anything sinister, just junkies who made the product so they could get their fill.

  “Put your hands on your head and spread your legs. No one moves a muscle.” I reached into my bag, my hand searching for Stan’s cell phone, then pulled it out and handed it to him. “I want you to call Mateo; tell him I’m here and that I want to talk to him.”

  He gulped and took the phone slowly, using one hand to unlock it and scroll for his contact. When he put the phone to his ear, I pressed the gun into his side again, watching. “Mateo, I’m here at the Long Island lab. Kid Cole just turned up with a gun and wants to talk to you.” His face paled at whatever Mateo said and he held the phone out to me to take.

  I smiled, taking the phone and pressing it to my ear, keeping my gun trained on Stan and glancing at the others to see that they were standing with their hands on their heads and legs spread as I’d instructed.

  “Mateo,” I snarled.

  “Kid, what are you doing?” I could hear a note of panic in his tone.

  His voice made the anger spike inside me;
rage clouded my vision and I fought to remain in control of it. “You made my shit list sending people after Ellie. I’m about to burn your fucking lab to the ground, just like I promised you I would. Next, I’m coming for you. I’m going to hunt you down and kill you so slowly you’ll be begging me to end it long before I do. You’d better get the fuck off my streets and start running, Salazar; you have a small head start, but it won’t do you any good. I’ll find you.” It was a promise. I’d killed one man in my life; I would make Mateo the second for daring to harm her. I disconnected the call without waiting for any reply, tossing it to Stan.

  Everyone was watching me with wide eyes as I reached into my bag, pulling out the first bottle of whiskey with the ripped portion of T-shirt stuffed into the top. I set it on the table, pulling the lighter out next.

  A sharp intake of breath from Stan made me look at him. “What the hell are you doing? This whole place will go up, there’s propane in here!” he cried, his eyes darting to the gas tanks and all the chemicals.

  “I know.” I sparked the lighter and held it against the cloth. It caught effortlessly and I picked up the bottle, smiling wickedly. “If you want to live, you better start running,” I said, pulling my arm back and launching the firebomb across the lab. It smashed, splattering fiery liquid all over the far wall. None of the ingredients were stored over there, which was why I picked it as my first target.

  I stepped back, grinning as all four of them turned on their heels and started sprinting for the door. I pulled out the second bottle, lighting the makeshift fuse and throwing it directly at the table with all the drugs on it, watching the fire come to life, engulfing the table and the wall, creeping over the floor, swallowing the Salazars’ drugs with it. I hefted the third at the back wall again, seeing the fire rapidly expand, the flames now licking up toward the roof. The heat in the room was almost
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