Rafael Rontego tasted the iron flavor of his blood running over what was left of his cracked lips as the warm liquid filled his mouth. He couldn’t see a thing and he felt a burning sensation on the back of his neck where it pulled against some unwilling tendons. It was unnatural to hang your head so far forward, but Rafael dared not let them know he was awake under the hood.
The damn thing smelled like straw, canvas, or dust. Some sort of sack, Rafael mused. It scratched at his face, and if his hands weren’t tied off behind his back he sure as hell would have tried to scratch half of his face off. Or wipe the blood from his lips.
Or kill the bastards who brought me here.
Rontego couldn’t remember much. He lay down to catch some sleep. Sleep was all he had done it seemed. Don Ciancetta told him he needed to lay low for a while. The heat was too hot. So he rented a suite at Salvatore’s Grand Hotel. He felt the fog lift a bit as he thought of the place with its perfectly polished floors and marble. Marble everywhere. But it was the Jacuzzi hot tub that made him almost smile right there with the blood running down his face and the hood blinding him. The things he and the blond had done in there. It was almost unfair to let them ever rent that room out again. The room lay right next to the thruway and so had an easy escape route if he needed it. Canada wasn’t far away and there were half a dozen neighborhoods he could disappear in if someone came looking for him.
The price was right too. The owner knew Rafael Rontego. He knew the hitman, and he knew his boss, Don Ciancetta. Everything was going well. The stories on the news slowly drifted out of circulation. The little amount of evidence, the Buffalo Police Department, had was destroyed, purchased, or went missing.
Even scared that cop straight into an early retirement.
This time he did grin, but the pain of his cracked lips brought him down in a hurry. He had to focus. Everything was so damn quiet. Even though he couldn’t see a thing, Rafael closed his eyes.
Drip. Drip-drip. Drip.
The water was faint but his ears caught it all the same. He prided himself on his hearing. The notion made him grimace. He never even woke up. He never heard them when they grabbed him. He assumed it was they. It must have been well organized because he had lain down…he had lain down…and what?
What did I do before I lay down. I drank a scotch. I drank a scotch, laid down, and then… and then I was slung over someone’s shoulder and bumping my head on someone that smelled like old cigarettes and sweat.
The bumping felt like stairs. Rafael vaguely remembered hearing the thud of boots on wood too. Then there was the dripping, the infernal dripping somewhere to his right. Rafael strained his nose to smell past the iron and the damned sack covering his face. It smelled wet.
Rafael’s heart sank.
I’m in a fucking basement.
He knew what happened in basements. He had been on the giving end of a few of those wonderful parties.
His heart thudded against his chin threatening to knock through his chest and slap him in the face. It only got worse when he heard footsteps descending.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
The footsteps stopped, but a second joined the first and then he heard voices. At first Rafael decided he must have been hit harder than he thought. He couldn’t understand anything that came out of their mouths.
Then it hit him. They were speaking a different language. A language he hadn’t heard much of for the last eleven years.
They were speaking Russian.