The scene down below is chaotic. Arturo and Fabio attempted to combat the ambush. A couple of Belini’s men sit slumped against the wall and the old ticket counter. Bullet holes riddle the walls and the array of movie posters. Smoke hazes through the air that stinks of the acrid smell of rotten eggs. The smell of sulfur.
Guns and death.
I run out onto the floor and fire a shot at a retreating guy from Belini’s crew. My bullet pierces the revolving door at the front and shatters the glass. The guy gets away, narrowly escaping my aim.
I’m about to go after him—I never let somebody escape my clutches in a situation like this—when I spot Fabio bloody and wounded near the popcorn machine. I rush over to him to find out what the hell is going on.
“Psycho,” he sputters. His face winces in pain. He’s been shot twice. Once in the shoulder and again in the stomach. “We’ve… we’ve all got to… we’ve got to get out of here.”
“We will. Any left to take out or did they all flee?”
His bloody fingers dig into the front of my shirt. “We have to get out. Right now. We all’ve got to—”
The blast silences him. It silences everything.
Only the sound of destruction reigns supreme. The devastation it leaves behind as the cinema crumbles onto itself.
Debris rains down from the cracking ceiling. Small pieces and larger, chunkier pieces break apart and tumble down. Plumes of thick smoke blind and choke me, making my eyes and lungs burn.
I’m coughing. I’m bleeding. I’ve been knocked down without the memory of falling in the first place.
Fabio’s unconscious. His head lolls to the side. He’s ashen with debris and drenched in blood.
I blink and squint against the wreckage surrounding me. The ringing in my ears is incessant and deafening. Enough to drive me mad only after a couple seconds. Pushing myself up onto my feet, I stumble sideways. I might as well have drunk a caseload of beers the way I’m staggering like a belligerent drunk.
Delphine! Where the fuck is Delphine?!
The sudden awareness that she’s nowhere by my side gives me superhuman recovery. No longer am I choking on the dust in the air and cringing at the ringing sounds. I’m sprinting toward the staircase, leaping up its steps, bounding onto the second floor landing.
I’m in a frantic search that won’t end until I find her.
Flames spread across the far-off terrace where only minutes ago, we’d been having dinner. Where even more recently I’d shot and killed the amateur. His body lays burning on the floor, next to the silver platter and the bomb on it that detonated.
My heart’s thundering like crazy in my chest as I whirl around and dash toward the restroom. I told Delphine to stay put. I told her to lock the—
I stumble to a sloppy, panicked stop.
The restroom door hangs open, concave from the force of the blast. No sight of Delphine inside.
I can feel my breath go ragged in my chest as I spin around again and scan the area in desperation.
Delphine! Where the fuck is she?! Where the hell did she go?!
“DELPHINE!” I scream, losing my shit. “DELPHINE!”
I move to break out into another run, prepared to search the whole crumbling, burning building when I spot her.
Immense relief sweeps through me, leaving me lightheaded. She’s in one piece.
She’s standing at the end of the hall, right at the entrance to another cinema room. In the wake of the blast, she must’ve wandered over, disoriented. We’ve got to get the fuck out of here before the fire spreads and the rest of the building collapses in on itself.
I sprint toward her and call out, “Delphine!”
She doesn’t turn around. Instead, she leans against the frame of the entryway, as though in need of support. I’m within reach only a long-legged stride later. My hand clenches shut around her upper arm to haul her off with me.
But she can’t come. She can’t even move.
As she turns around in my hold, my gaze drops. My heart does too.