There were very few things that made James cranky, getting set up was one of them.
It just left a bad taste in his mouth, and it really was bad for business. But their intel had been wrong. James wasn’t sure who to blame yet, but he knew someone would be looking down the barrel of his gun once they got out.
If they got out.
No. They would definitely get out.
He had shit to do.
Things to steal.
Oceans to cross.
He was a busy man.
He didn’t have time for this crap.
“We can still get out of here.”
The optimism was appreciated, but James knew that wouldn’t be the case. For one, they were completely unarmed. A disadvantage considering the people holding them hostage were armed to the teeth. That was either overkill, or James’s reputation preceded him. But there was no way they were getting out of there alive.
At least, not both of them.
“You should go before they change their minds about letting you.” He peered at his second in command. “We can’t both go down.”
A muscle coiled in the other man’s clenched jaw. It bunched beneath the taut skin until James was sure his teeth would shatter. But he didn’t move from his wide stance.
No one had patched up the cut on Nicholas’s temple or cleaned the blood from his battered knuckles. He looked as terrifying and fierce as he had the night before when they’d been pinned down in that bogus warehouse by the very men holding them hostage. James couldn’t see himself, but he felt fairly confident he looked no better.
It had been chaos.
A shower of fire and bullets, and those empty fucking crates that should have been packed with military round bullets. On the market, James could have made a small fortune. Instead, they’d stepped right into an ambush.
A first, for James. Either he was getting lazy or someone had set him up.
He put his money on the latter.
“I don’t trust them.”
James followed his best friend’s wary gaze to the two men hovering by the door.
They hadn’t spoken since the unnecessary manhandling when shoving James and Nicholas into the closet sized bit of space. They simply loomed in place with their tactical gear and set expressions. James pegged them for ex-military the way they stood and held their weapons. It was all very official, but he’d eat his pants before believing any of them were actually serving any official force, despite what they might have told him upon capture.
“Get back to the ship,” he instructed instead. “Head as far east as you can and wait for my call.”
By east, James knew that Nicholas knew he meant west. Far west. But the other man shook his head, a slow rock that spoke volumes of his displeasure. Brown eyes bore into his, bright with annoyance, reluctance, and uncertainty. They flicked away to focus on the men blocking their only exit.
“I still think we should just kill them and escape.”
The smaller of the three men shifted uncomfortably under Nicholas’s penetrating and murderous, stare.
“Get to the others,” James repeated. “You’re in charge until I get back.”
“Fine.” He snatched up his coat off the back of the second chair and angrily swung it on. “The others won’t like it, but we’ll wait for your signal. We don’t hear from you within the week, we’re coming back and setting these motherfuckers on fire,” he finished darkly.
With that, he turned and stalked to the door. His long strides carried him there in two steps. It scattered the men before they could get bowled over. Then, he was gone and James was left alone in a room that smelled of fear and desperation. None were his, but its potency infuriated him. It curdled the meal he’d consumed hours earlier and made him less inclined to be accommodating.
“Do we need to stay in here?”
A third man entered the room, a scrawny thing in a navy-blue suit. He stalked in as if he owned the place, which would have been adorable, if James wasn’t more interested in the neat stack of files he held to his thin chest.
James was almost positive it held only blank pages. No way he’d left that much evidence behind in the last eleven years. Or, maybe the threat that they had enough on him to put him away for life wasn’t entirely exaggerated. Who knew. Didn’t matter anyway. They had him and he was willing to go down in exchange for his crew’s freedom.
James rose from the chair, successfully crowding the space with his bulk as he faced the newcomer.
“Mr. Crow,” the man purred in a much too haughty drawl. “I’m Special Agent Fredrickson of CSIS, Canadian Security Intelligence Service.”
James propped his hip against the edge of the steel table bolted down into the concrete. “Where’s your boss?”
The man never batted an eye at the request.
“I am in charge—”
“No, you’re not,” James interrupted. “Although, you’re doing a splendid impersonation. I want to talk to an adult—”
The door behind Fredrickson swung open and a man entered the already overcrowded room. He motioned for the two guarding the door to leave then shut himself in with James and Frederickson. He moved in deeper and stopped when he was a foot from James.
“I’m Bishop,” he declared in a curt, British accent. “I’m in charge of this operation.”
Unlike Fredrickson, who looked like he couldn’t pick up a pencil without pulling a muscle, Bishop radiated authority. It wafted off his steel gray suit and glinted in his ice blue eyes. He was military. Navy, if James was correct. He stood like a man built for war, tall, firm, and in control. His shoulders were perfectly squared with the stance of his feet and a swell in his chest that spoke of serving his country with pride. But which country? That was what James wanted to know.
“I wasn’t aware CSIS enlisted the British,” he remarked.
Bishop never wavered. “I’m MI5.”
James bit back a snort. “When did MI5 get jurisdiction in Canada?”
“Since this is an international case,” Bishop replied simply.
“Is that right?” James folded his arms. “Who else should I be expecting to this party? CIA? FBI? Interpol? Lady Gaga?”
“Mr. Crow,” Fredrickson interjected sharply. “We must insist you take this more seriously.”
James lifted an eyebrow. “Would you like me to cry?”
Bishop broke the steely grip of his gaze and glanced sideways to Fredrickson, who stood with James’s files clutched tightly to his thin chest. “I’ve heard a great deal about you, Mr. Crow.” He took the files and started around the table with them, forcing James to straighten and turn with him. “The infamous Captain James Crow, arms dealer, raider, murderer.” The files hit the table with a resounding bang. “Fugitive. Quite an impressive resume for someone so young.”
“You sound like a fan.”
A ghost of a smile twitched beneath the razor straight line of his graying mustache. “Oh, I am. Quite so. There’s a whole chapter dedicated to you in our training. Some consider you to be a myth, a warning to sailors to stay on guard at night. There’s even talks that you might be the son of Poseidon, the sea god himself. How else can a man with your many accomplishments never have been caught? Not once. It’s all quite thrilling stuff. So, yes, I am a very big fan of yours, Mr. Crow. I just never thought I would get the pleasure of meeting you.”
“If you want an autograph, all you have to do is ask.”
Bishop gave a chuckle. “Perhaps later. Right now, we have other matters to discuss.”
He motioned for James to take a seat even while he drew out his own metal chair. James hesitated a full second before following suit and watched as the first folder was flipped open.
It wasn’t full of blank pages as James had predicted. It seemed to be stuffed with official looking files, reports, documents, and photos.
The photos scattered across the stainless-steel top. Glossy images of all the faces that had haunted James’s nightmares the last decade and a half of his life. Some were up close. Others were taken from a distance, but there was no mistaking them.
“What the hell is this?”
“I take it from your expression that you recognize these men,” Bishop concluded.
James reached for the photo closest to him, a photo of a round, balding man with a pointed face that looked like it had been pressed in a vice for too long.
Oh, he recognized them all right. What he didn’t understand was why they were in James’s folder, or why this guy had them.
“That’s Roman Endrizzi.” Bishop nodded his chin in the direction of the picture in James’s hand. “He’s Giovanni De Marco’s money manager, bookkeep, and collector. He’s the one who hires the goons when someone doesn’t pay their loan. He’s also the one in charge of every penny De Marco and the clan own, legal and off the books. As the owner of the city’s largest bank, he has the knowhow to hide money and hide it well.”
“I know who he is.” James tossed the picture down. “What the hell do you want from me?”
Bishop stabbed the picture with one finger and shoved it across the table back towards James. “I want to help you, and he is how we are going to do it.”
“What makes you think I need help?”
Bishop didn’t grin, but it was in his eyes. “Because if you didn’t, De Marco would already be dead.”
James ignored the prickle of resentment along his spine by leaning back and folding his arms. “Maybe I like playing with my food.” He narrowed his eyes. “And what the fuck do you know about it? What does my personal business have to do with MI5, anyway? Are you guys bored?”
Bishop straightened a notch. “Because your business coincides with our business, Mr. Crow. I believe we can help each other out. You want De Marco dead and we want his enterprise demolished. So, you see? We have the same agenda.”
James wasn’t so sure about that. Nothing about the man made sense. Plus, there were more questions hanging over his head than answers.
“And MI5 and the CSIS…” He motioned to Agent Fredrickson. “Have absolutely no problem with me killing someone?”
Bishop and Fredrickson exchanged glances. It was brief, but it said plenty.
“As far as we’re concerned, there was a casualty.”
“Right.” James started pushing to his feet. “Thanks, but this smells like bullshit. You’re going to have me kill De Marco, then arrest me for killing De Marco. I know how this works.”
“No, Mr. Crow, I don’t think you do.” All traces of amusement had fled the other man’s face, leaving him every ounce the bad ass James could sense he was. “I am offering you a chance to right the wrongs done to you. To Annie.”
That name slammed into James’s chest with a serrated ferocity that stole the air from his lungs.
“What the fuck did you say?”
A photo was drawn from one of the folders, a school picture of Annie sitting in front of a blue screen, smiling. Her dark hair lay in shiny, straight lines around her shoulders and pushed back by a red headband that matched her knitted sweater. Her gray eyes stared into the camera, bright, but timid.
She’d always been timid, soft.
The good one.
The kind one.
The one everyone loved.
That photo was the last one anyone ever took of her. And this bastard had it.
“Where did you get that?”
Rather than answer, Bishop placed it between them, amongst the men who murdered her, who tortured, raped, and brutalized her. It was enough for James to want to snatch it up and protect it like he couldn’t protect her.
“How long has it been?” Bishop wondered. “Ten … eleven years? Don’t you think it’s time you destroyed the men who did those awful things to her? I want to give you that. I want to help you give Annie peace. Doesn’t she deserve that?”
“You son of a bitch.” Each word caught on the jagged shards of glass embedded at the back of his throat. Even to his own ears, they came out shredded, hollow.
“Just say yes.”
It took all his efforts to tear his eyes away from the photo and fix them on the man watching him. “Why me?”
“Because no one else will be as dedicated.” Bishop sat back. “No one else wants his head more. I feel its justice for all.” He paused, took in a breath. “Also, because you have a ship, which will become quite essential to the plan.”
“And if I refuse?”
“I strongly suggest you don’t,” Bishop mused contemplatively. “You really only have two choices. You can help us take down Giovanni De Marco willingly and avenging your sister’s death, or we take you and your entire crew and lock you up some place not even the ants can find you.”
“My crew’s already gone.”
“You don’t think we can find them? Your Chief Officer only just left.”
The bastard had him.
Even if Nicholas had managed to get to the docks in the last ten minutes, they would not be far enough away not to get surrounded.
“Also,” Bishop dug into the pocket of his blazer and removed a thin remote with a tiny, green blip blinking on the radar screen. “Your friend is carrying one of these on his person. It’s an almost microscopic tracker I personally planted on him when you were first brought in. With this, I can find him anywhere. The best part, so can a missile. Now.” He tucked the device away. “When should we expect your answer?”
“You son of a bitch!”
Fredrickson caught him around the shoulders when James lunged at the man seated across from him. He was surprisingly strong for someone so scrawny. James was forced back into his chair.
“Mr. Crow,” Bishop chided. “That is highly unnecessary. I am on your side. It might not seem so at the moment, but I assure you, I am.”
James threw off the hold on him and glowered at Bishop. “It’s Captain, you piece of shit. And if anything happens to my men, I’m not the only one who will have to worry about the fucking ants not finding them.”
Bishop nodded slowly. “Then I think we understand each other, Captain. There is no reason why this partnership should end badly if both sides cooperate. And why wouldn’t we? We both want the same thing—to rid the world of Giovanni De Marco. Tell me I’m wrong.”
It didn’t matter if he was or not. The fact remained the same no matter how the asshole dressed it up: the lives of his men were in his hands. Refusal was no longer an option.
“Fine.” James rolled his shoulders and straightened the collar of his coat. “But I have one condition. No matter what happens, my men and my ship are never to be touched.”
Bishop beamed and stuck out a pale hand across the table.
Title: Blood Script
Release Date: April 12, 2017
Genre: Dark Contemporary
eBooks: Links Coming Soon!
Trade Paperback: Links Coming Soon!