I shake her. “Dandelion. Now!” I gesture to a soldier who takes her and turn my back so I don’t have to see her struggle against him as he drags her away. I hit the call button on a number I’ve never used. One my grandfather passed along.
Favors are carried down from generation to generation. And my grandfather had helped Franco Benedetti when he ran this city. Franco’s dead now and has been for years, but this successor will answer this call.
“Who is this?” says the man who picks up on the second ring.
“Amadeo Caballero, Humberto Caballero’s grandson. I need Dominic Benedetti.”
A long silence follows, then footsteps.
“Amadeo. This is Dominic Benedetti. How can I help you?”
* * *
I textthe address of the penthouse to Bruno and make my way down on the elevator. Just as I step out of the building and head toward the last SUV with its lone driver, four more SUVs pull up. Dominic works fast. One circles around ahead of us, and my driver follows while the other three tail us.
Those men weren’t cops or any arm of any legal establishment. They were Lucien Russo’s men. Or at least men Russo most likely borrowed from one of his associates. It was done to distract us. To separate us. He couldn’t kill us outright. Not so publicly.
Vittoria’s panicked words repeat in my head, her worried face swimming before my eyes.
They’re going to kill him.
They’re going to try. I know that.
I grit my teeth. At least Dominic with all this contacts in the city was able to learn where the entourage was headed. We ride fast to the location my brother has been taken to. I don’t let myself think about being too late. I can’t.
Over an hour later as we slow to enter the lot of the abandoned meat processing plant, I get a text from Dominic telling me to stay put. I watch as men dressed much like those who filed into the top floor of Russo Properties & Holdings to take my brother stalk close to the wall toward two separate entrances.
I don’t want to stay put. I want to be there. I want to put a fucking bullet into every one of the bastards who grabbed my brother.
I take my gun out of its holster and climb out of the vehicle. My driver does the same. Neither of us is wearing protective gear while Dominic’s men came dressed for war.
On the command of the one in charge, the men stream into the building. I expect to hear gunfire, but it’s quiet. I hurry toward the entrance and see why. Lucien’s men are easily outnumbered and clearly taken by surprise. Their weapons are not ready and gear is discarded as they sit laughing and talking in a language I don’t understand, but it sounds Eastern European mixed with Russian. Vests with SWAT typed out on them lie haphazard on the floor. This is not an organized operation.
Dominic’s men round them up, only two shots fired with silencers in place as others are knocked to the ground and driven to their knees.
I don’t see Bastian anywhere, though, and look around, circling behind abandoned machinery to where I hear more men. Laughter. And my brother telling someone to go fuck himself. I hurry toward the sound, Dominic’s men at my back, and see them in a wide open room with drains along the cracked tile floor. Meat hooks dangle from the ceiling. My brother hangs from one, handcuffs hooked, and his hands holding tight to support his weight. He’s shirtless and barefoot. His feet don’t touch the ground. And from here, I can see the damage they’ve done to his chest. His back.
A man gears up to punch him in the gut. Bastian grunts as the man turns to his buddies and laughs. But he doesn’t know my brother. Bastian lays his weight into the swing, using momentum, and lifts his legs as he swings back toward the asshole who hit him. He manages to kick him in the face when he turns around.
The man curses, then spits blood. His friends laugh outright, but he reaches for a cattle prod. I have my gun out, and before he can get close to Bastian, I shoot the bastard in the side of the head. Blood splatters my brother as the man stands momentarily still, as if his body hasn’t registered the fact that he just died, before he falls over sideways.
It takes his buddies a moment to process what has just happened, and by the time they get their weapons, Dominic’s men are on them.
“Don’t kill them outright,” I order as I hurry to Bastian.
“Took you fucking long enough, brother,” Bastian says as I lift him just high enough so he can get his arms free of the hook. I set him down, see him wince, and wonder what damage they did to the bottoms of his feet. His wrists are raw and bloody, burns and bruises mark his chest, stomach, shoulders, and back. But he stands straighter, swallowing down the pain. “Give me your gun.”
I hand it over, taking in the bruise around his eye and the cut along his lip. And I watch as, rather than using the gun to shoot his tormentors, he beats the shit out of each one with the butt of the pistol, wrists still cuffed, until six men are lying barely conscious on the filthy ground.
He crouches down beside the body of the one I shot and digs into his pockets to retrieve the key to the cuffs. He stands and holds it out to me. I can see he’s in pain.
“You okay?” I ask.
“I’ll be fine. Vittoria?”
“Good.” He looks at the men as I unlock his cuffs.