Authors: Cathy McAllister
Tags: #Thriller Romance
hen Ramon entered
the small reception area he knew straight away that something was wrong. The landlord looked nervous, as if he was expecting trouble.
Ramon approached the counter, his senses sharpened. He could definitely see fear in the dark eyes that he was looking into. The man had a hand under the counter, where there was possibly a gun at the ready. Ramon expected the landlord to pull out a gun at any second.
“I’ve got a message for you, Sir!” said the man, and passed the envelope across the counter.
Ramon took the envelope and opened it. He took out the piece of paper and unfolded it without taking his eyes off the landlord – the man was clearly even more nervous now than he was before. That must be because of the message, that was unlikely to contain good news. Even before he read the note, he knew that he was no longer going to find Crissy upstairs in the rented room. He also knew who had kidnapped her. One look at the letter confirmed his suspicion. He knew this bold handwriting only too well. Mario. And also Mario would know that Ramon would realise what had happened because the letter contained no explanation – just an address in 37th street, a good half an hour’s drive away. It must be some old warehouse. There was also a time on the note: 23.30.
Ramon maintained his stare, looking with fury at the landlord. The bastard knew more. In one leap Ramon was on the other side of the counter, before the landlord could cock the pistol that he had taken from below the counter. Ramon grabbed the landlord’s wrist and squeezed hard. The man screamed in pain, his hand opened and the pistol fell to the ground. Ramon kicked it out of reach and took the landlord by the throat.
“Please don’t!” groaned the man, his eyes wide open with fear.
“We’re going to have a chat now!” said Ramon in a threatening tone, and pushed the man ahead of him, into the closest room, which served as an office for this cheap hotel.
Ramon dragged the landlord through the office to the desk that he cleared with one movement of his arm. Then he banged the man’s hand onto the top of the table and stuck his knife into it so that the man was pinned to the desk with his hand.
The man screamed in pain, but Ramon took no notice – he sat down very calmly in an armchair and waited until the landlord stopped screaming. Then he looked directly at the man, who was by now very pale – the true horror of the situation written across his face.
“When?” asked Ramon.
“What? Why? I don’t know what you mean. Honestly. These blokes came this morning, about half an hour after you left, and left me this note. They said the letter was for you and that I should give it to you when you come back.”
Ramon took out a second knife and at top speed he cut off the man’s right earlobe. The man yelled again and began to sob helplessly.
“Wrong answer!” said Ramon coldly. “I’ll give you one more go. The next thing that you’ll lose … “ He waved the bloody blade in front of the man’s eyes. “… is your cock. Have I made myself clear?”
The man nodded madly and shut his eyes, shaking.
Ramon put his legs casually up onto the desk and cleaned off his knife on the curtain next to him.
“Right then, my friend. What’s your name?”
“Right! Andrea! Now you’re going to tell me everything right from the beginning. And I’d like the whole truth this time, if I may.”
Sobbing and stuttering, the landlord now said what had really happened. Ramon’s expression darkened noticeably. He really had to stop himself from killing the man on the spot. He needed more information from him. But he was definitely going to kill him. If he let Andrea live, then the Mafia would take care of his death. As the man had betrayed the Mafia, his death would be much more gruesome than anything Ramon would ever do to this man.
“What sort of an address is that?”
“A-a warehouse. Usually it’s used as a d-dealing place for d-drugs.”
“How many people has Mario got here?”
“There were t-two bodyguards with him a-and I think there was a-another in the car.”
“Who does the warehouse belong to?”
“A-a sympathiser, his name is, uh … hold on a minute, his name …”
Ramon put the knife under the man’s nose.
“It’s best if you remember the name very quickly, otherwise you can say goodbye to your cock.”
“I-I can’t think when I’ve got a knife under my nose,” complained Andrea.
“I’ll count to three!”
Andrea closed his eyes and whimpered.
“M-MMMinetti! H-his name is Minetti. Tom Minetti.”
“Good boy,” said Ramon gently and took the knife away.
Andrea slowly opened his eyes, but avoided looking in Ramon’s direction.
Ramon took his gun and cocked it. Andrea jumped at the sound. Of course he knew what was coming now. He murmured a quick prayer. Ramon leaned forward, held the barrel directly on Andreas’ temple and waited for the man to finish his prayer.
“Amen!” concluded Ramon and pressed the trigger.
He caught the falling man and put his upper body onto the desk. Then he looked around the office and looked through the drawers until he found what he was looking for – the car key for the landlord’s BMW that was parked in the yard. It took a long time, but it was the best way for him to get away from here.
Ramon left the office and ran upstairs to the room that he had rented for himself and Crissy. He quickly packed the things together then he went downstairs and took the landlord’s weapon and other ammunition that he found in a drawer. Then he left the guest-house by the back door.
In the yard there were pieces of old furniture, chests and barrels. A cat leapt off a torn armchair, hissing, and ran away. The black BMW was parked in the midst of the rubbish. Ramon used the remote control to work the central-locking system and he put his things into the boot. Then he swung into the driving seat and started the engine. He spent a while looking for some decent music on the radio, until he spotted a pile of CDs in the passenger seat foot-well. He bent over to look through the CDs till he found one he liked.
As Tarja’s soprano voice rang out, Ramon, satisfied with his choice, put the car into reverse and left the yard.
rissy was cursing
this damn tape. Not only did it stop her from talking, so that she could only express her thoughts in her head – no! – it also gave her the horrible feeling that she was about to suffocate because she could only breathe through her nose and that was blocked because she was crying.
She could hear footsteps getting slowly closer. It was about time this bastard came back. She had no idea how long she had been alone in the dark, but it must have been hours since Mario had locked her in this small, window-less room.
The key turned in the lock and the door flew open. Crissy screwed up her eyes, blinking, as she was suddenly blinded by the light of a torch.
“We’re going on a little trip,” said Mario, and dragged her to her feet.
Crissy tried not to fall over as he pulled her along behind him. He pushed her into a car again, where her two bodyguards were waiting to force her into the foot-well again. She lay absolutely still, her heart pounding and her limbs aching. She tried not to panic, as that would make her cry and block her nose again.
The car began to move. However they did not go far. They stopped in an industrial park. Several warehouses stood side by side. In between them were containers and piles of empty pallets.
Mario went ahead into one of the warehouses. Crissy followed with her two guards. The warehouse was full of shelving stacked with various large boxes. They walked through the warehouse and entered an office. There Mario told her to sit in an armchair. With a wave he dismissed the two large guards, who closed the door behind them.
With a smile of satisfaction Mario looked at his prisoner. Crissy glared at him angrily. But this did not appear to have any impact on him. He went to a cupboard in the corner and took out a bottle of Cognac and two glasses. He calmly filled both glasses and sat down in the armchair opposite her.
“Oh, sorry, I forgot,” he said, and, putting both glasses onto the table beside him, he tore the tape from Crissy’s mouth with a single tug.
“Owwww! You damn ass-hole!” shouted Crissy.
“Shut your mouth!” said Mario coldly.
He took one of the glasses and held it up to her. She ignored it.
“Stop your nonsense, Crissy,” said Mario. “Take it!”
She looked at him coolly and took the glass.
Hesitating, she took a sip and a pleasant warmth spread through her innards. So she took another sip and leaned back in the armchair.
“Better?” asked Mario gently.
Mario looked at her whilst he drank. Crissy forced herself to look right at him. He looked like the man that she had fallen in love with over a year ago, and yet he was not the same man. Or rather – he had never been that man. For a year she had lived with an illusion and it hurt her; the memory of all the happy moments; the trust; laughing together – all a lie!
“How did you know that I hadn’t been eaten by the alligators?”
“Well, call it sentimentality or whatever, but I suddenly had a bad feeling about leaving you to such a horrible end. So I sent a man to finish you off quickly with one shot. But the man returned and reported that you had disappeared without trace. There wasn’t a single drop of blood to show that you were dead. So I sent him off again – this time with the task of finding you and assassinating you.”
“Very moving,” said Crissy sarcastically.
“Now you won’t believe me, but I really did want everything to turn out very differently. I wanted to marry you, you sweet thing. I wanted to have a family with you. But you threatened my family. I couldn’t allow that.”
“Why have you brought me here?” she asked.
“Haven’t I told you already? You’re my bait – for the beast.”
“What business have you got with Ramon?”
“Hasn’t he told you? We were very good friends. Almost like brothers. We shared everything. Even girls.”
Mario laughed and took a sip of Cognac from his glass.
“Has this got anything to do with this Angel?” probed Crissy, her heart pounding.
“So he really has told you about it? Well, I bet he didn’t tell you everything. “
Crissy let him think that Ramon had told her. She did not mention Jeanette. He could go on thinking that Ramon had told her his secrets.
“So I’ll tell you how it really was. As I’ve already said, we were like brothers, sharing everything. My father gave me Angel as a birthday present. Obviously that wasn’t her real name. Her real name was Beth – just Beth. She was meant to bring me in a lot of money. Angel wasn’t intended for the normal customers. I made her into the main attraction in my luxury brothel. A night with her for ten big ones. And she was almost always fully booked.
Then Ramon returned from a trip and saw her for the first time. He was obsessed by her straight away and absolutely wanted her. That wouldn’t have been a problem, if he’d wanted to shag her now and then. I’d have let him do that for nothing. But he wanted her to stop. So, OK, I’m a softy, especially when it comes to love. I sold her to him for a million. He married her, she got pregnant and then the little one arrived.
Suddenly Ramon didn’t want anything else to do with the business. He wanted to live cleanly because of his little family. I told him that he had to do one more job for me – just a small matter, but he refused.”
Mario emptied his glass and put it down.
“What sort of job?” asked Crissy.
“He was supposed to kill a man. It wasn’t his first assassination job. It wouldn’t have given him any trouble. But he just didn’t want to do anything else for me. And that was after I had shared everything with him. I’d even given him Angel.”
“For a million,” interrupted Crissy sarcastically.
“I could hardly give her away. And Ramon had the money.”
“So you killed her!” stated Crissy.
“I know you won’t believe me, but it wasn’t planned that way. I thought she was with Ramon. I’d invited them all for a chat, but Ramon came alone. Angel had stayed at home with the little one because the baby had a fever.”
Mario sighed and got up. He went to the cupboard to get the bottle of Cognac, to pour them both some more. When he sat back down, he took a large swig before continuing.
“I had sent two men to burn his house down. When Ramon turned up alone I realised that Angel and the little one were in danger. Ramon immediately saw my dismay. I told him what was going to happen and tried to get hold of the men who were supposed to be carrying out the job, but they didn’t respond. Ramon went straight back to the house, with me close behind him. We arrived at his estate at the same time. It was already blazing furiously. Ramon threw himself straight into the flames. My men and two of Ramon’s servants pulled him out by force. It was pointless. It was all pointless.“
Mario emptied his glass and poured another one.
Crissy had listened to the story in suspense. What a tragedy, and, as Mario had said, pointless.
“Ramon was in hospital for ages. I expected him to try to kill me when he got out. But he did nothing of the sort. He just strutted into my office and put a picture of her onto my desk. He said that he hoped that her face would haunt me my whole life long. He was right. She still haunts me. I loved her. I never wanted her death – nor the death of the little one. I was her Godfather after all.”
“But there’s one thing that I don’t understand. Why are you after Ramon now? He left you alone. He went into the swamp.”
Mario laughed smugly.
“Yes, he didn’t put a bullet in my head, nor a knife in my ribs. He took revenge in a different way. He gave me away to the police and told them a few bad details that should have put me into prison. It cost my father a lot of money to convince the judge to free me and to get rid of other evidence. Also Ramon took a case with him containing two million.”
Now Crissy knew how come Ramon had so much money in his account.
“And what do you intend to do if he comes here, which I don’t think he will?”
“He’ll come. Just like he threw himself into the flames for Angel, he’ll come for you, too, and put his life on the line. He’ll offer me his life for yours. He may be a monster on the outside, yes, he’s even a multiple killer, but he has a weak spot for the gentler sex. He sees it as an honourable duty, to rescue helpless women – just as he rescued you from the alligators. “
“I think you’re mistaken. He won’t come. I think you’ve probably done him a favour. He wanted to get rid of me anyway.”
“Crissy, is that really what you think? I know him better than you do. I know exactly how he feels and how he acts. He
“OK, let’s presume that he’ll come. What are you going to do then?”
Crissy was not sure that she really wanted to hear the answer. She hoped that she was right and that Ramon would not fall into this obvious trap. Perhaps he did not even return to the guest-house. It was still possible that he had left her. Then he would never get the message, never come here and so live on. There would be no point in him coming. Mario was going to kill her anyway. There was no way that he was going to let her go. Her life was already forfeited. Only Ramon’s life could still be saved –
he stayed away from here.