Ernest Adams stands behind a podium speaking to a gathered crowd of factory workers. His campaign posters and signs are plastered everywhere you look—his pompous face staring down at me from a dozen different angles around the street.
His stupid slogan too.
A better life. A more just future. Elect Ernest Adams for City Mayor.
He’s right in the middle of his speech when he chooses to pick me out of the crowd. He stares directly at me as he speaks and his dark eyes glint in knowing. His mouth quirks in the barest hint of a cocky fucking smirk I’d love to pummel off his face.
My hands clench into white-knuckled fists at my side. I’m breathing like I’m expelling toxic fumes. Ragged and heavy and noisy. I might as well be. Another moment and I just might explode.
The second his speech is over, the crowd cheers like the stupid trained lapdogs they are. They go crazy, whooping and grinning ear-to-ear. You’d think he’d just told them they were being given a million bucks each. All he’s done is spend fifteen minutes making empty campaign promises.
Ernest is any other sleazy, selfish politician. If only they were smart enough to see it.
I stride toward him as he steps down from the podium. Arturo marches behind me, my muscle for the occasion. Ernest’s team tries to stop me the closer I make it. I shove my way through.
Taryn bops over like the nosy fairy she is and tells me to leave immediately.
“It’s okay, Taryn,” he says coolly. “If you don’t mind, can you address the crowd? Let them know we have more to come after the five-minute intermission.”
She hesitates then nods, but not before throwing more daggers at me. I couldn’t give less of a shit what some four-foot-eleven, nasally-voiced, fan girl of Ernest thinks of me.
I don’t waste any time confronting him. “What the fuck is this, DA? You show up to the manufacturing district for a campaign event?”
His cocky smirk returns. “I’m running for city mayor, Mancino. Part of that city includes the manufacturing district. Historically, it’s a neglected part of the city. But I’m guessing you already knew that. Thatiswhy you’ve established a whole compound in this neighborhood, correct? Did you count on fewer eyes around to know what kind of illegal activities you’re up to?”
“That’s correct. I do like my privacy. You understand. You were creeping around with Lena Burtka all those years ago.” My fingers uncurl from their tight fists. I stuff my hands in my jean pockets instead. It’s better to play it cool. “Actually,” I go on, “you and Lena are still a thing, right? She’s donating to your campaign. It seems she might be involved with that Society Club you like so much—seems I’m not the only one who likes to keep my activities private.”
“You keep trying to use Lena as some gotcha card. I have nothing to hide, Mancino. Unlike you, I’m not a criminal.”
“We’ll see about that. A little birdie told me Lena might be affiliated with the organized crime lifestyle herself. You know anything about that, DA?”
He doesn’t get mad like last time. He chooses to bark out a deep laugh. The thing is, it’s his fakest yet. I can tell by how forced it sounds and how his eyes remain humorless that it’s a cover. Deep inside he’s pissed as hell. Threatened I’d even dare to bring up Lena and the potential dirt I’ve uncovered.
“I have no earthly idea what you mean, nor do I care,” he says. “You’re trying to use Lena as a cover when it’s crystal clear why you’re angry. If you’re threatened I’m campaigning in your area, then it’s simple. Stay away from my daughter. I’ll stay away from your neighborhood.”
I step closer, looking him dead in the eye. “That’s always what this comes down to, isn’t it? You can’t fucking stand it. JustknowingI can have her drives you insane.”
“No. Just knowing filth like you and your father have poisoned my city is enough to drive me insane. I’m running to stop you. Soon, I will.”
“You take me down. You go down. You can count on it.” I leave him where he’s standing, spinning around and storming off. Before I get too far, I issue one last warning. “Oh, and DA? Don’t block off my fucking streets again.”
He says nothing in response, though his jaw clenches.
Arturo finds another side street to use to get around the barricades blocking us off. The second we’re inside the compound, I’m tearing off for the elevator.
After another long night and my latest encounter with Ernest, I’m in a bad mood. My temples throb in another headache and my ribs ache when I stride too fast. I’ll take my pills and sleep a few hours. I’ll wake up refreshed and ready to continue my revenge efforts.
But first—Stefania. Florina called me during my confrontation with Ernest. Probably an update about whether Stefania is awake and sober enough to speak.
I’m exiting the elevator on my loft floor when Stitches appears. His face pales like he’s expecting an ass-whooping. I tilt my head to the side in a questioning manner. What’s he done wrong now?
“You haven’t brought more buck-fifty prostitutes to offer me blowjobs, have you?” I joke darkly.
He shakes his head with a gulp sound. “Psycho… I’ve been looking for you.”
“For what reason?”
“There’s been a situation. Florina called me. She said she’d rang you up a few minutes ago but you didn’t answer. It’s about Stefania.”