“What are you going to do?” I asked, glancing between them. Their faces were completely blank. “You can’t actually kill him. You know that, right?”
“We don’t kill people,” Ruger said, his voice calm and almost soothing. “But sometimes ass**les like him have accidents when they aren’t careful. Can’t control that—it’s a fact of life. Show us where he is.”
I looked at Horse’s big, strong hands holding his baseball bat and the roll of duct tape, one thumb caressing the silver surface.
Then I thought about Noah clinging to a fire escape, four stories high, hiding from a “bad man” who wanted him to sit on his lap so he could tickle him.
I thought about the booze and the pot and the p**n .
Then I walked to the door, opened it, and pointed across the hall toward Miranda’s studio.
“They’re in there.”
Ten minutes later, I couldn’t stop wondering what Ruger meant by the word “accident.”
Were they planning a fatal “accident”?
I told myself it wasn’t my problem. Miranda’s fate was set the moment Noah called Ruger, crying and begging for help—totally beyond my control. Telling myself that worked for about half an hour, and then my conscience kicked in.
If Ruger and Horse weren’t planning to kill someone, why did they need a bat and duct tape? Those weren’t constructive-discussion-about-what-you-did-wrong supplies. Those were killing-someone-and-hiding-the-body supplies. The only thing missing was a box of big black garbage bags. I’d seen Dexter. I knew these things.
Miranda deserved serious payback for Noah, but she didn’t deserve to die. I didn’t need that kind of karma.
I called Ruger’s cell. He didn’t answer.
Then I crept across the hall and knocked on the door. There weren’t any screams or anything coming from inside. Good sign or bad? Hard to tell—this was my first felony and I didn’t know the proper procedure. I heard boots crossing the creaky wooden floor.
“It’s me,” I said, pitching my voice low. “Can you come out for a sec? I really need to talk, Ruger.”
“Ruger’s busy,” Horse replied through the door. “We’ll be done here soon. Go get packed and take care of your boy. We got this.”
I tried the knob. Locked.
“Seriously, Sophie, go back to your place.”
I backed away from the door. Now what?
The open window at the end of the hall caught my eye. The fire escape. Ruger had used it to get into my apartment, and Miranda’s place was a mirror of mine. Maybe I could get in that way to make sure everything was all right?
I ducked back into my studio for a quick check on Noah, closing and locking my own window while I was at it. Thankfully, he was still totally out. Not a surprise, given the night we’d had. I slipped through the door and locked it, then walked over to the hall window and stuck my head out to scope the situation.
Sure enough, the narrow iron landing stretched from my window and across the hallway before stopping under hers. I put my leg through cautiously and stepped onto the platform, making it creak. I glanced down and swallowed.
Never been a huge fan of heights.
I held the rail with one hand, trailing the other along the brick wall until I reached her closed window. I crouched low, peeking through. Miranda wasn’t much of a decorator, so she didn’t have real blinds, just a filmy, translucent scarf she’d tacked over the pane. Details might be a little fuzzy, but I could still see clearly enough.
Her boyfriend lay facedown on the floor, hands bound tightly behind his back with duct tape. They’d wrapped his feet, too, with more tape around his head—like they’d decided to shut his mouth and just kept going. Blood trailed from a cut on his forehead and dripped out of his nose. Bruises were forming along his ribs. He seemed to be unconscious.
Ruger stood over him, aluminum bat in one hand, cell phone in the other.
Miranda knelt in the middle of the room, hands taped tight just like her man’s. More duct tape covered her mouth and she wore a sleazy nightgown that was probably supposed to look sexy. Horse lounged casually across from her, leaning against the wall. He seemed bored.
I sighed with relief. I’d been crazy to think they’d actually butcher two people in cold blood. That didn’t happen in real life. Sure, whatever was going on in there didn’t look fun, but I could live with that.
Ruger hung up his phone and shoved it into his pocket. He said something to Horse. Horse shrugged and must’ve cracked some sort of joke, because Ruger laughed. Then the big man walked over to Miranda, knelt down, and ripped the strip of silver off her face. Her lips quivered as she asked him a question. He shook his head as he replied, and she started trembling so hard I could see it from across the room and through the curtain.
Then things got bad.
Horse reached around and pulled an ugly black handgun out of the back of his jeans. I watched in frozen horror as he cocked the slider-thingy on top, clearly preparing to shoot. Then he said something else to Miranda.
Tears ran down her face as she slowly opened her mouth.
Horse nudged her lips wider with the barrel of his gun, pushing it in.
Holy f**k. HOLY FUCK.
I jumped up and pounded on the window with both hands, screaming at them to stop.
Ruger spun around, moving so fast I couldn’t follow. Within seconds he’d ripped open the window and jerked me into the room. The sash crashed down again as he wrapped his arms around me, pinning me to the front of his body, my back to his stomach. I tried to scream again, but his hand slammed across my mouth.
The bat clattered as it rolled across the wooden floor.
Miranda’s eyes darted toward me, full of desperate hope that quickly melted when neither man moved. Then Horse spoke.
“Time’s up, sugar. Usually people close their eyes. Your call.”
Miranda moaned, shutting her eyes tight and visibly bracing her body.
Horse glanced up, smiled, and blew me a kiss.
Then he pulled the trigger.
Sophie exploded in his arms, thrashing furiously. Her bitch of a neighbor screamed and fell back on the floor, flopping around dramatically.
Neither seemed to notice the f**king gun hadn’t been loaded.
Ruger fought to control the banshee in his arms, hating Horse because the bastard just stood there, smirking at him like the smug, cocksucking ass**le he’d always been. Seriously, a goddamned kiss? Sick f**k. One of Sophie’s heels lashed back and caught him in the shin. When he grunted, she kicked the same spot again. Savagely.