Clear by the sweat clinging to his brow and the shake of his arm and how young he looks. He couldn’t hold the gun steady if his life depended on it. Probably his first real job for whoever hired him. I doubt he’s even been made. But the question is, who’s sending some rookie to take me out?
I have my answer in the next second. Voices sound from downstairs, some familiar and others less so. Fabio’s deep timbre travels up to our floor. A less recognizable one commands that he lowers his weapon. The name Belini leaves his mouth, warning Arturo and Fabio their instructions were to kill everyone.
Hector Belini’s fucking revenge.
“Hands up!” the amateur yells. He inches toward the table and sets down the domed silver platter. Swinging the gun between me and Delphine huddled on the floor, he tries to establish some sense of authority.
Too bad I’ve already got a read on him. I’ve already decided how I’m going to take him out. Now it’s about waiting for the right opening.
The moment I kill him and every other asshole ambushing us.
“Keep ‘em up!” He gestures at my raised arms with his unsteady gun. “Orders are for you to open your present. Lift the dome.”
I ignore his command, an amused grin twisting onto my lips. “How much you getting paid to carry this out? A couple hundred bucks? Enough to die for?”
Doubt flickers into his expression. He takes another sloppy step back. “You heard me. Open your present.”
“I’m going to snap your neck,” I tell him crudely. “Then I’m going to shoot you in the face. You’re going to bleed out on this carpet.”
The morbid details of how I plan to kill him weigh on him. His eyes dip to the same carpet I’m referencing, and his Adam’s Apple bobs up and down his stringy neck. This kid was picked up off the street and offered a quick job for some extra cash—he was probably told it’d be easy money for a few minutes.
All he’d have to do was hold up a couple and deliver a ‘present’. He’s gotten more than he bargained for.
“Last time I’m going to tell you,” he says. “The dome.”
“Or else what?” I ask. I’ve gradually inched close enough that he’s within a pace of me. Yet another beginner mistake, letting me get so close. “Are you going to pull the trigger?”
“Possibly—yes. If you don’t…” He points with the gun again. “Just do what you’re told. Open your—”
Amid the voices downstairs, the bang of gunshots ring out. I seize the opening. The small opportunity as the amateur halfway glances over his shoulder at the abrupt noise. Within that split second, I’m on him.
I’m cracking my elbow into his face and forcing the gun from his loose hands. He grunts and tries to fight me on it, grappling for the gun he’s lost. My free hand seizes his throat, crushing his windpipe like nothing, and I blast him point blank in his face.
Dead with his knobby little Adam’s Apple quivering in his throat.
I didn’t keep my promise about snapping it, but good enough. I step aside and let his lifeless body flop to the ground.
The gunfire has continued downstairs. Feet pound against the floor. Shouts of profanities and death threats fill up the air.
What the fuck is going on down there?
I intend to find out, but first a few precautionary measures must be taken. Crossing over the terrace to Delphine, I grab her by the shoulder and push the amateur’s gun into her hand.
“Jon, what…?” She’s frazzled, wide-eyed and thrown by what’s going on.
“Take the gun. You remember how to hold it and aim?” I quickly give her a refresher and then walk her out into the hall where the second floor restroom is. “You stay here. You lock the door. Anybody you don’t recognize comes at you, you shoot. Don’t hesitate, you hear me?”
“But wait… where are you going? I want to come with you—”
“Stay put,” I repeat, opening the door and nudging her inside. “It’s safer. Lock it, Phi.”
Fear and confusion make up her expression as I shut the door on her. A second later the lock clicks.
I spin around, withdrawing the weapon I’m conceal carrying. I’m reaching the top of the staircase in the next second. One of the men sent to ambush us has finally made his way up the steps. He almost flinches in surprise at the sight of me before rushing to pull the trigger.
I beat him to it. I land a shot square in his chest, already passing him up by the time he’s sinking to his knees and then collapsing on the stairs.