Home > Vow of Deception (Deception Trilogy #1)(5)

Vow of Deception (Deception Trilogy #1)(5)
Author: Rina Kent

“So what do you suggest I do, Larry? Run away?”

The older man snaps his fingers. “Exactly. Lie low for a while and then we’ll figure some way to get you out of this city.”

It’s the most logical thing to do under the circumstances. It is. But I’ve always been attached to this merciless city with super glue. Besides, it’s where I have memories with my baby girl, and if I leave, it’ll be like I’m abandoning a piece of me.

“But…Larry…”

He sighs, jamming both of his hands in his orange coat. “You don’t want to leave?”

I shake my head.

“But you might get locked up. You have to.”

“I know. Are you…coming with me?”

“Absolutely, woman. We ride together and die together.”

“That sounds like some motorcycle club’s slogan.”

“I stole it. Roll with it.” He peeks his head around the corner, his hazel eyes shining with concentration before he focuses on me. “Now, go. Don’t stay in open places and avoid cameras. I’ve got your back.”

I wrap my arms around him in a brief hug. “How will we meet again?”

“I have my homeless intel. I’ll find you. Just lay low.”

After I reluctantly release him, I carefully make my way through the back of the alley.

I glance behind me to cast one last glimpse at Larry, but he’s already gone.

 

 

Usually, when we’re not at a shelter, Larry and I spend the night in the subway station. The benches are our friends and the marginal silence is better than the loud city outside.

So that’s where I go first, but soon realize my mistake when I see the news about Richard’s death on the station’s TV.

Two middle-aged men, who appear to be football fans judging from their blue Giants hats, stop in front of me to watch the news. I shrink backward and blend in with a wall in case anyone here recognizes me.

“What a mess,” one of them says, lighting a cigarette, despite the no smoking signs.

“Maybe it’s a sign that he wasn’t meant to run for mayor,” the other replies, shrugging a shoulder.

“Wasn’t meant to? Man, have you even been living in this city?”

“Why? What?”

“Richard Green was the prime candidate for mayor.” Cigarette Man leans toward his friend and lowers his voice as if he’s sharing Central Intelligence Agency secrets. “There are rumors that he was backed by the mafia.”

“The mafia?” the other man whisper-yells.

“Keep your voice down, you idiot. You want to get us whacked?”

I scoff at the way he mimics the famous mobster movies, but I find myself moving closer, while still keeping a distance, to get a whiff of their conversation. If Richard was backed by the mafia, then the scary men dressed in dark suits make more sense since they dropped by occasionally and went straight to his office.

“Is it the Italians?” the non-smoker asks.

Cigarette Man blows out a cloud of smoke and I block my nose and mouth with the back of my hand to keep from coughing. “No. The Bratva.”

“Russians?”

“That’s what the rumors say.”

“Are the filthy Russians getting involved in our politics again?”

“Yeah, man. And their mafia is no joke. Heard they kill people like they’re flies.”

“This is a country of law.”

Cigarette Man bursts out laughing, waving his hand to catch his breath from the force of it. “What law, man? Those monsters make the law wherever they go.”

“Are you saying Richard’s death isn’t as simple as the media’s painting it out to be?”

“Yes, I am. All that is a diversion.” Cigarette Man motions at the line that reads “Richard Green, New York City mayoral candidate, was killed by one of the homeless people in the shelter he directed.”

I squint at the TV and frown. My picture should be all over the news with a wanted caption on top. How come they didn’t even mention my name? Did the police not give concrete statements to the media yet?

But that doesn’t make any sense. My handprints are everywhere in Richard’s office, and I’m, without a doubt, their prime suspect. So how come I’m just a homeless person in his shelter? Even my gender isn’t mentioned.

“The Russians are scary, dude,” Cigarette Man says.

“Worse than the Italians?”

“Right now? Way fucking worse. Their power and influence run deeper than any other criminal ring.” He throws his cigarette on the concrete without extinguishing it as he and his friend rush to catch a train.

I walk to where they stood and kill the cigarette with the sole of my shoe. The topic on the TV has changed to some other world news and I keep staring at the burnt butt. How the fire left a black line on the white exterior. So even after it’s gone, the evidence remains.

Just like my life.

I touch the bottom of my abdomen where my scar is tucked neatly under the countless layers of clothes. It still burns as if my fingertips are on fire, bursting through the clothes and flaming my skin.

Another protest of hunger comes from my stomach and I sigh, leaving the station. I need to go to a quieter place because, even though they didn’t reveal my identity, they will eventually.

The Giants fans’ conversation keeps playing in the back of my head as I sneak from one alley to another, my footsteps light and fast.

When Cigarette Man mentioned the Russians, the only thought that came to mind was the stranger from earlier today. His accent was very Russian, but not really rough like I’ve heard before. It was smooth, effortless, almost how I’d imagine Russian royalty to speak if they ever learned English.

Could he be a part of the mafia Cigarette Man mentioned?

I internally shake my head. Why would I place him with the mafia just because he has a Russian accent? He could be a Russian businessman, like the thousands who swarm New York all the time.

Or a spy.

A shiver shakes my insides at the thought. I really need to rein in my wild imagination. Besides, in what world is a spy that attractive? Except James Bond, but he’s fiction. The Russian stranger drew so much attention, and the weirdest part is that he seemed kind of oblivious to it. Or maybe he was bothered by it, like he didn’t want to be the center of attention, but he was forced into that position anyway.

I reach into my pocket and retrieve the handkerchief he gave me. Okay, so I did throw it in the trash, but then I took it out. No idea why. It felt like a waste, I guess.

Running my gloved fingers over the initials, I wonder if his wife made him this and if she’ll question him about its whereabouts. Though he seemed to be the type who does the questioning, not the other way around.

Shoving the handkerchief back in my pocket, I push the weird stranger out of my head and take a few turns until I arrive at an underground parking garage Larry and I frequent.

The guard is snoring at the entrance, mumbling about some baseball player being an idiot. It doesn’t take much effort to slip past him. Now, all I have to do is leave early in the morning before he wakes up.

The parking garage isn’t big or fancy, only fit for around a hundred cars and half the slots aren’t occupied. Just one-third of the neon lights work, but even if they all blinded me, it wouldn’t make a difference. I’ve slept in worse places with stronger lighting and louder noises.

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