“The Neptune Society is corrupt,” she chokes out. “Salvatore, the Society is some sort of vile club full of powerful people wanting to benefit off of everything bad in the city. Chester says… he told me I wastargeted. As some sort of twisted initiation type thing. Everyone is forced to go through some type of ordeal to prove themselves to the society. M-my rapist… he’s one of them.”
Unsurprised, I pull back enough to peer into her watery eyes and thumb away tears from her cheeks. “Phi, I have to tell you something.”
She flinches in my hold, even her bottom lip quivering, almost as if she already knows whatever I say is about to hurt her deeply. It makes it that much more difficult pressing on. For once, I find it difficult keeping it real. I find telling the truth an uncomfortable experience, knowing I’ll have to inflict this pain on her.
My pulse racing, I try and keep calm for her. She’ll need a shoulder to cry on as she processes everything. I’ll be whatever she needs me to be.
And then I’m going to raise hell. I’m going to make the people who have hurt her suffer like they’ve never imagined possible.
“Phi, your necklace,” I say, clenching my jaw to keep my fury at bay. “Your necklace isn’t what you’ve thought it is. It’s a spying device.”
She stills in my arms, though more silent tears slip down her face. The news has paralyzed her. She doesn’t ask any questions, doesn’t give any other discernible reaction, yet I can still feel her pain—her heart shattering inside her chest.
“There was a grain-sized camera installed in the pendant. It’s some expensive, hi-tech equipment made and manufactured by Thomas Technologies, the company Chadwick’s dad owns. It allowed whoever was on the other end to record and track you. Every moment you’ve ever worn that necklace, you’ve been monitored.”
“My father gave it to me when I was thirteen. I’ve always worn it.”
My nod is solemn. “He’s been watching you, Phi. Every second of every day for years.”
Delphine’s heartbreak is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. The pain unfolds on her face, flitting across her features. More tears well up, anguish in her eyes. She presses her lips together as if refusing to let the pain out, but the level of hurt is too great. It bursts free regardless of what she wants, in a raw cry that’s soul-destroying.
I wrench her deeper into my arms and hold her, hoping I’m helping somehow. I’m a rock for her as she discovers her entire life has been a lie.
I’ve killed countless men. I’ve maimed and disfigured even more. I’ve done many bad things in my lifetime with no remorse and hardly a second thought.
Nothing compares to this.
Being the one to deliver this news to Delphine is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Partway through, I consider refraining from telling her the rest of the crazy web of lies she’s been caught up in without even realizing it.
This news about her necklace is emotionally destructive enough for her. I’m not sure if she can handle the rest. How much more she can take before a total mental break.
She buries her face in my chest and my shirt dampens from her tears. I rub my hand along her back and debate what to do.
Ultimately, I decide she needs to know. All of it. She’s been kept in the dark long enough.
“Phi,” I say gently, “there’s more. Your father… he’s not who he says he is.”
She clings to me harder and more tears wet my shirt. Through another strangled sob, she mutters, “Tell me. I want to know.”
“He has ties to the Russian mafia. TheBratvais what it’s called. The fraction in Northam is run by a man named Vladimir Kozlov. One of Kozlov’s longtime business partners was another guy by the name of Ivan Volchok.”
“Volchok,” she repeats in a whisper against my neck. “The same Volchok who paid off Azeria and Mirra?”
“Same one. He’s an interesting character. A businessman who was very active in the 90s and early 2000s known for brokering lucrative deals for the firms he worked with. He made a lot of money and was even a member of the Neptune Society, but then he fell off the grid for years… until he paid off Mirra and Azeria for their part in your attack. Have I mentioned he’s also the father of Lena Burtka?”
She bolts upright in my arms, her eyes suddenly wide and dazed. “Lena Burtka was my father’s mistress.”
“Burtka is the name she legally changed it to. Volchok is her original birth name. Same relation. She even donated to your father’s campaign for mayor.”
“No,” she whispers, shaking her head profusely. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Phi, I have proof. That’s what I’ve been up to all day—gathering documentation and records proving everything I’m saying is the truth. It took a lot of work. They’ve covered their tracks well.”
“No,” she pleads, “because then… that would mean… my father…”
She can’t bring herself to finish her sentence, tearing herself from my hold. She rushes over to the nearest trash bin, dropping to her knees and emptying out her insides.
Stitches knocks just in time. I crack open the door and accept the water and towels he’s grabbed me. Being the nosy softie he is, he tries to peek over my shoulder to see what’s going on inside the office.