Title, Cover & Blurb Reveal Coming Soon!
by K. Dosal
A gurgling sound halted me from moving forward. Quickly, I took in my surroundings, but all I saw were the dark streets of New York, with dim overhead lights illuminating my path back to my studio. An icy shiver ran through my body.
It was past midnight, and the moon was hidden under the looming snow storm, which was why I’d been sent home before my night-shift at the diner was over.
No taxis ran through this part of town — not at this time of night, unless called. The bit of change I’d made from three hours of tips couldn’t be wasted on a ride. The roof over my head was far more important.
Glimpsing behind one last time, I pulled my beanie lower over my head, crossing my arms to keep warm as the snow flurries fell. My feathery footfalls were loud as the left-over snow scrunched beneath my feet, the threatening feeling of danger keeping my eyes focused ahead and my body on alert.
The unusual sound turned to a whimper, followed by a fist meeting skin. I tried to breathe out the nerves that kept climbing, rising with each step I took.
“Please,” a voice begged. “I have a family.”
I froze, afraid.
I couldn’t cross the alleyway where the sounds originated without being seen. I turned back, but was too far to retreat my steps to be out of the view of the street.
I noticed a dark SUV parked spots away from the alley as I pressed my back to the brick, catching my coat on its grainy texture. My eyes stayed on the blacked-out SUV, hoping it was empty; hoping I couldn’t be seen.
“Do you have the payment?” A deep voice asked without a trace of emotion.
“I have a family.” The man repeated through his whimpers.
“They all do.” His sigh was loud, bored, but his threat remained frightening as his voice deepened. “Don’t make me repeat myself.”
“He said I had another week!” The man spluttered.
“Yeah, that was before you called from your warm office, surrounded by your bodyguards, giving you the balls to speak to the boss like you did.”
Feet shuffled, and I sank to the ground, crawling towards the metal trash cans in the entry of the backstreet, wishing the darkness would cloak my body from view of the SUV as its door opened.
Using my raven black hair as a shield, I lowered my face to the side. A small opening between the black bags and debris allowed me to watch the view before me while remaining hidden. My breathing quickened, and I bit my shaking bottom lip in an attempt to hold in my fear. The piercing sound of a gun cocking as a bullet shifted to the chamber sent my body into a quiver.
My eyes closed as the gun lowered to the kneeling older man with a bowed head.
The feel of warm tears against my cold cheeks forced my eyes shut, trapping them behind my lids. I caught my sniffles, blowing them into the frosty air to mute any sound my emotions tried to make.
Unwillingly, my eyes snapped open, my gaze sliding back to the man in the shadows.
My heart pounded.
My tears fell.
My body numbed.
The slight head shake of the kneeling man was the answer the shadowed frame needed.
The muffled sound of a lone silent bullet slipping quietly into the air had no match to the sound once it hit its target. My cry found my ears when the hollow sound of bone and flesh ripping through the man’s head, a wet splatter staining the snow. I slapped my palm over my mouth as tears rapidly escaped at the sight of the body flopping lifelessly to the ground.
The dreadful feeling of a presence caused my head to turn, my skin to prickle, and my panic to rise. My eyes landed on a pair of dark slacks that were mere inches from me, and I couldn’t hold in my cries anymore.
With tearful eyes, I lifted my gaze to a man dressed in all black, except for a gray scarf covering his neck from the harsh winter, leaving only his face and black-inked hands exposed. I stared down at the hand, the bold tattooed letters catching my attention — NYS. New York Syndicate.
My chest shook at the realization, and I finally met his black eyes. They were empty. Soulless.
He didn’t speak a word. He simply stared down at me.
With a small nod, he ordered me to follow his steps into the alley and my legs shook as I stood. I couldn’t help but look to the empty street before turning back to the dark eyes that awaited my next move. Snow flurries landed in his jet-black hair, his clean-cut beard not hiding his locked jaw.
I never thought I would die just months from turning twenty-three, let alone walk knowingly deeper into the alley where I’d just witnessed a man being murdered. Yet each step I took sealed my fate.
My feet faltered as my head slid back one last time toward freedom. But the man turned his body, towering over mine, watching. His eyes seemed to be always watching, calculating. There was no escape. I should’ve fought, not given in. But my fear beat my will. Fear is powerful to the human mind, and I was its victim.
We’d all heard the whispers of the mafia, how they cast their wrath on those who didn’t look for it, following their prey like a shadow.
“Looks like you found a mouse.”
My eyes flew to the killer who stepped away from the shadows and into the dim light, unafraid of showing his face. His eyes connected with mine, but they lowered as he looked over me, light illuminating the left side of his face. A thick scar ran through his left brow and down to the corner of his eye, the angry mark managing to intimidate me further. He was my nightmare, and I was afraid I would never wake up again.
His steps circled me, taunting, while the man who’d found me moved away.
The crunching sound of snow stopped behind me before the feel of leather gloves wrapping around my jaw kept my head from straying away from the tattooed man in front of me. The body was flush against my back and his grip tightened, leaving me no room to move. My limbs shivered at the touch of cold metal from a sharp knife digging into my collarbone with warning.
The man in front of me raised his palm, giving nothing more than his order.
“No loose ends,” was whispered in my ear from behind, almost as a reminder for himself; a mantra.
The tattooed man shook his head faintly, and my eyes lowered to the body slumped before me. Soon, I’ll be joining him too.
“What’s your name?” My eyes popped back to the deep voice in front of me. But my words were trapped and I couldn’t help but steer my gaze away, back to the body. The flash of the casing from the lone bullet that took his life mocked me from the ground.
The knife slid up from my collarbone to the side of my neck with a silent warning to answer.
My ability to speak vanished, and all I managed was a small whimper that caused his impatience to grow. He dug the knife deeper, cutting through my skin until it drew blood. The sting jolted me from his hold, a simple reaction of pain.
He moved fluidly in the dark like a shadow.
Before I got the chance to raise my hands, to communicate my mistake, the knife pierced the nape of my neck, slicing down its path, burning along the way.
With each pulse, warm blood ran down my neck and into the merciless winter, and my knees wobbled until they hit the ground. Kneeling.
I looked up as my hands tried to apply pressure, though my body was already weakened at the fast speed of the most vital liquid of life slipping through my fingers.
They both looked down at me. Tattoo let a grim expression pass through his features as I blinked up at him. When my gaze met the man who would take my life, I noticed their resemblance.
Nightmare grimaced at my bloody hands as they gripped my neck. “I just reacted.” He shook his head toward me, but his words were directed to the man who screamed power over him.
“Get him.” Tattoo ordered with a nod to the dead body while he watched me bleed out in front of him.
“What about her?” Nightmare asked the same moment the rest of my body slumped to the ground. My eyes fluttered, and the bullet casing shimmered into my sight.
“After you are done with him, check her pulse then leave her. She’s not tied to us. She’ll just be another life taken by the streets.” He walked away, and I caught his quick look back to me before I was dismissed.
Nightmare took a deep breath, and picked up the body next to me without a struggle.
I was left to the bitter winter as the snow fell rapidly from the sky and a pool of blood spread to the casing — my blood.
I inched my hand through the deep red stained snow until I grasped the cool metal in my fingertips. The only energy I had left, I used it to tuck the empty shell inside the pocket of my coat.
The last object to hold my life’s attention.
My teeth began to chatter with the frost bite of the night, and my eyes fluttered until my body relaxed and all I saw was darkness, the same color as the eyes which had found me, and the same color of the eyes of my killer.
I had lost too much blood, teetering on the edge of unconsciousness.
I hardly felt the warm fingers that applied pressure to my chilled neck. My last thought was of my mother.
I hoped the pain of being alone would cease once I met her in the afterlife.
Unedited and subject to change © K Dosal.