Home > The Sinner (Black Dagger Brotherhood #18)(9)

The Sinner (Black Dagger Brotherhood #18)(9)
Author: J.R. Ward

“No, I’m leaving the station now.” The cop lowered his voice. “But you’re not going to believe who they think did it.”


“Carmine Gigante.”

Jo sat forward. “The Carmine Gigante? And is that senior or junior?”


“I don’t suppose you have any way of reaching him.”

“He hangs out at the Hudson Hunt & Fish Club. But I happen to have his cell phone.”

“Can I have it?” When there was a hesitation, she rushed in. “All of my contact with you is off the record. You can trust me. No one will know where I got the number.”

“I’d really prefer to deal with Bill.”

“I promise. You can trust me.”

As he grudgingly recited the digits, she wrote them down and then ended the call. Taking a couple of deep breaths, her hands shook as she started to dial.

The male voice that answered was gruff, congested, and accented with a whole lot of Brooklyn. “Yeah.”

“Mr. Gigante?”

There was a period of silence. “Yeah.”

“My name is Jo Early. I’m a reporter with the CCJ. I’m wondering if you have a comment on what happened to Frank Pappalardo’s nephew, Johnny?”

“What the fuck are you talking about.”

“Johnny Pappalardo was found dead around twelve a.m. last night not far from that techno club Ten, which I understand you have ties to. Kind of funny for him to be up here in Caldwell, don’t you think? Given that his family’s territory is down in Manhattan. Rumors have it that he was in town to make peace with you, but I’m guessing that didn’t go too well.”

“I don’t know nothing.”

“I spoke with Frank Pappalardo’s representative earlier today. In a statement to me, his lawyer said that the Pappalardo family is mourning the loss of a fine young man. Something tells me that’s sincere, but hardly the end of it. Do you expect there to be retaliation from—”

“What’d you say your name was?”

“Josephine Early. Reporter for the CCJ.”

“Don’t call this number again. Or I’ll make it so you can’t.”

“Did you just threaten me, Mr. Gigante—”

As the connection was cut, she took a deep breath and went back to her keyboard. With quick strokes, she revised the update to include the fact that Mr. Carmine Gigante Sr., Caldwell’s reigning crime boss, had a no comment when he was reached about the death of one of his biggest rival’s close relatives. Another spell-check. And a final read-through.

Putting her hand on her mouse, she paused. Looked at her boss’s door for a third time. Returned her eyes to her screen.

“Fuck you, Dick,” she muttered as she put one more revision in.

Jo posted the update to the original story, grabbed her purse, and stood up from her chair. As she went to the newsroom’s back door and broke out into the cool, clear night, she was not thinking about her headache, her stomach, or her hot flashes.

Who’d have thought it was a relief to get threatened by a mob kingpin?

The Hudson Hunt & Fish Club had nothing to do with hunting or fishing, but it was close to the Hudson, about ten blocks up from the river in downtown. As Syn approached the establishment, he was underwhelmed by its unremarkable, windowless front, and that was the point. Nothing about its two-stories-high, shotgun construction was intended to garner attention, the seventies-era rectangle fitting in with the rest of the businesses in the six-block neighborhood. Delis. Locally owned restaurants. Tailors, tinkers. No spies.

Ducking into an alley that was as broad as the eye of a needle, he made quick work through the darkness. Halfway down, a door opened, weak, yellow light spilling out and illuminating the wet pavement.

Well. What do you know. It was his good buddy from the night before, the one with the gun and the racing magazine.

Fates, that nose looked bad, all swollen, and the left eye was black.

“He’s waitin’ for ya,” the guy muttered as Syn entered. “Go all the way to the back.”

Syn walked into a bar that was mostly empty. No one at the tables, just three guys at the counter with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and a trio of glasses between them. As he made his way “to the back,” their dark eyes stayed locked on him as their hands ducked out of sight into their open jackets.

He hoped they came at him, and he memorized them. One had an eyebrow with a scar through it. Another was missing the top half of both ears, like someone had given him a haircut that had gotten out of control. Number three, who had been called Junior the night before, had a gold pinkie ring the size of a paperweight on his left hand.

In the rear, there was a flap door that led into a hallway that smelled like bacon and eggs. Something opened off on the right, and Syn prepared to take both his guns out.

The man who stepped in his way was your typical barn door, although his stare suggested he was smarter than a flat panel that kept horses inside their collective stalls.

“Stop where ya are,” he said around the butt of his cigar. “I’ma pat you down.”

Yeah, whatever. Syn got into that brain and flipped some switches.

Promptly, the man took his cigar nub out and nodded. “You’re good to go.”

No, shit.

Syn entered a shallow passageway with Cigar and then the big guy did the duty with yet another frickin’ door.

The office that was revealed was exactly the same as the one from the cement company, making Syn think, stupidly, of a pair of matched socks. And behind the scatter of papers, the old man with the acne scars was pissed.

As he pounded the desk in front of him, the ice in his whiskey glass rattled. “Jesus Christ. Answer your fucking phone.”

Syn stepped forward so Cigar could join them in the cramped space. “I’m here, aren’t I.”

“Did you see this?” A laptop got turned around. “What the fuck is this? You’re supposed to be a fucking professional and you do this shit?”

The screen was showing the picture of a corpse that was mostly blurred out. Given the amount of pixelated red stuff, it was clear that whoever had killed the poor bastard had had butcher training.

“You were supposed to be quiet.” The man picked up a cell phone. “And you know who just called me? The fucking press. The fucking press! It’s everywhere, goddamn it.”

Syn cooled his jets and let the man blow off steam. As this was human world bullshit, he couldn’t care less—

“I’m not paying you a fucking dime.” The man waved his cell phone. “I got problems I didn’t have before you fucked it all up being a fucking show-off last night. So you’re not getting fucking paid.”

As Syn decided not to remind the man that money had not been the point, on his side at least, that laptop got spun back around and beads of sweat bloomed across that meaty, pockmarked forehead.

“What the fuck are you doing to me!” When Syn still didn’t respond, the man pounded his desk and lurched to his feet. “Do you have any idea who I am!”

“Who you are is irrelevant to me,” Syn said with utter calm.

Fleshy lids blinked as if Syn had switched up languages on the guy. Then the old man looked at his associate with total shock. “Do you get a load of this guy?”

“Unbelievable,” came the response around the cigar.

“You’re something else,” the old man muttered. “And I don’t think I’m making myself clear. Do you know who I am.”

Syn focused on the heartbeat that pulsed on the side of the man’s throat. And as his fangs tingled, he knew that the wrong question was being asked. The real question was not who, but what, and it was about Syn. But as with the whole money thing, that was hardly a course correction he felt it necessary to make.

The cell phone rang again, and when the old man looked at the screen, he muttered to himself. Then sat back down in his chair and rubbed his eyes like his head hurt.

“You know what, it’s your lucky fucking night.” Looking at Syn, he crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m going to do you a favor. I’m going to give you a chance for redemption. As opposed to a grave.”

“Do tell,” Syn said in a bored tone.

“I want you to take care of a reporter for me.”

When Syn left the Hunt & Fish Club, he went down the back alley to a rear parking lot that had a dumpster, ten spots for cars of the narrow variety, and no exterior lighting. There was only one vehicle in the square of asphalt, a Chevy Suburban that was parked laterally across many sets of faded yellow lines. As a cigarette flared behind the wheel, it was clear the old man’s chauffeur was ever-ready, and as soon as Syn was out of sight of the driver, he dematerialized about twelve blocks up. Upon re-forming, he registered his position with the Brother Tohrment, clocking in for his shift prowling the largely-empty-of-slayers downtown.

He missed the old days. The Old Country. The way things used to be with the Band of Bastards sleeping together like a pack of dogs in the rough, the only rule being that as long as you cleaned up the messes you made, no questions were asked.

But nooooo they had to come over to the New World.

Then again, there had been even fewer lessers overseas.

For tonight’s shift, he was in the territory next to the Brother Butch’s, and he was supposed to be with his cousin, Balthazar—and the latter was a good thing. Balz didn’t mind working alone, with the pair of them covering the area assigned without walking side by side. Syn hated that grafted-at-the-hip shit. He was so not a chatter, which was a natural corollary of him not giving a shit about anyone else’s life.

Hell, he didn’t even care about his own.

Technically, the lone-wolf, on-your-own routine was a violation of protocol. But Balz was a thief with no conscience, so lying by omission was like sneezing to the guy. Plus Syn was god-awful company, and he had the sense that Balz, who was in fact a chatter, would rather be by himself than stuck in a strained silence as they pounded the pavement in search of what they rarely, if ever, found.

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