One week after the events of Playing the Songbird
Noah adjusted himself in the back seat of the car, how long did it take for a lawyer to get ready for work? He checked his watch once again, the bastard needed to leave in three minutes to make it on time with no traffic. And when was there no traffic in Boston? This guy was an even bigger piece of shit than Noah thought. His body screamed in pain from his own torture and laying in this tiny back seat was a new kind of torture he wasn’t in the mood for.
Steps approached from outside and the door clicked open. He tossed his suitcase on the passenger seat and sipped a travel coffee before putting it in its holder. Noah waited until they’d left the house and driven down the road aways to raise his 44 at the man in the driver’s seat and give a slight cough.
Theodor Lee glanced back to see the barrel of his gun pointed at him. He calmly looked back to the road.
“What do you want?”
“You stumbled into the wrong case. You’re going to set up a meeting with Nicolas Aguilar and you’re going to take me to him.”
“This is a little extreme to set up a meeting don’t you think?”
“You think he’s actually innocent?”
“I believe what I have to do to give my clients the best defense.”
“Ever wonder who roughed your client up?”
“I did before now, but I think I have a clue.”
“Good thinking,” Noah growled. “You know I have no qualms shooting someone, so do what I say and you can go home to your wife. Try and pull anything and I’ll end you.”
“Who are you?”
“Noah Draggo,” he hadn’t said it in so long it felt foreign on his tongue.
“I thought you were dead.”
“So did everyone who tried to kill me. Now I’m killing them. And anyone involved in the kidnapping of Paige Quill.”
He went silent as he turned right. “I didn’t know she was missing.”
“YOu wouldn’t, but you heard about the judge in New York right?”
“Only because I was with Nick when he got the news.”
Noah smiled. “How’d that go over?”
“He was furious, but he was also scared.”
“Your client has Paige. The judge packaged her up real nice for him.”
“Why would I be here? I could find Aguilar on my own and put a bullet through his head at five hundred yards or more, depending on the setup. I need to know where he took her. Help me and you live. And bare in mind that’s only an option because it’s what she’d want.”
“If I do this, my career is over.”
“Only if you admit to it. No one will know if you do everything I tell you.”
“Would you rather set up a gangster who wells girls for profit or die? It’s really up to you.”
He swallowed hard. His eyes flicked about the roads as he made his way into the heart of the city.
“How’d you end up with Aguilar as a client?”
“We met at a party, I gave him my card.”
“So you’re one of those defense attorneys who doesn’t give a shit if your client is guilty?”
“You know, people always assume that, but do you know how many conviction get thrown out for incompetent council? Too many. I do my damndest to defend these guys so the innocent ones go free and the guilty ones can’t use me as a way out.”
Noah huffed. “A bullet is much faster and way more permanent.”
“Yes, but the fear of an innocent man’s life being ruined is what drives me.”
“And an innocent woman being sold as a sex slave? Where does that fall on your moral compass? Or how about a fmaily being murdered to cover someone’s tracks?”
“It was William Blackstone who said it’s better to have ten guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer.”
Noah scoffed. “You know how much damage ten guilty men can bring on the innocent?”
“The law isn’t about revenge, Mr. Draggo.”
“No, but it should at least bring justice.”
“And who will bring justice down on you?”
“With any luck,” he said, eyeing the buildings they were passing. “No one until this is over.”
Dustin led Tanvi and Luke into the hideout. An anxious itch had started in his chest since his last conversation with Noah. Everything was about to fall apart and Dustin didn’t know if he was the man to hold this shit show together. He’d known when he left the bureau to go out on his own things could go sideways but this was beyond what he prepared for. He was supposed to help Paige get her story and then step back into the shadows as an anonymous source. He wasn’t a hero. Not like his brother, Lucas.
Ace was at the computer, fingers flying over the keys as Remi paced in the kitchen. They were all upset. And the silence was painful. John didn’t seem affected as he watched Remi pace and munched on a sandwich.
“Any word from Rambo?” Dustin asked as all eyes drew to his movements.
“No,” Remi said. “When was he due back?”
“Yesterday.” Dustin rubbed a hand over his face.
“That’s cute,” Ace said, never taking her eyes off the computer.
“What is?” Dusitn asked. Eyeing her as he dropped his hand from his face.
“That you think he’s coming back. He lost his family to these assholes and now they have Paige. Bodies will be piling up, if they haven’t already. And he will not come back here unless he needs you for something or I can find out which senator is directly related to Lagron or Aguilar. And let me tell you, it’s not going well. They have more than standard encryptions. I’ve got code names and states so I could let Noah suss it out from there, but that feels—irresponsible somehow.”
“Bodies?” Lucas asked from Dustin’s left.
“Senators?” Tanvi added from Dustin’s right.
“This is my brother, Lucas, and his lady friend Tanvi.”
“Cause more bodies is what we need right now,” Remi snapped. “We need to find her. She could be dead already and we’re standing around filming people in.”
“We can learn on the fly,” Tanvi said, stepping forward. “Who’s missing?”
“Reporter Paige Quill.”
Lucas frowned at her reaction. “You know her?”
“Never met,” she said, pressing her lips together. “But we know someone who’s very close to her.”
“Who?” Luke asked.
“Frank is her uncle.”
“If he has anything to do with the fucking bikers we do not need his help.” Dustin spat. “They cause more trouble than they’re worth.”
“Bikers?” Luke asked. “I thought she was taken but traffickers affiliated with local gangs.”
“She was,” Remi stepped forward offering Lucas and Tanvi a hand. “Her dad is the President of the Bad Beat, an MC out of East Texas and he’s here too. It’s only a matter of time before he starts burning shit to the ground if he can’t talk to his daughter.”
The door behind them opened and squealed shut as only a metal door can. An exhausted Cici walked straight past everything to Dustin. Burying her head in his chest, his cheeks flushed as he wrapped his arms around her. Luke gave him a you can explain that later look so he turned his attention to the woman in his arms.
“News?” he asked gently.
“My father is utterly impossible. And I can’t sleep. Everytime I close my eyes I see her.”
“I know baby,” he kissed the top of her head and ran a hand through her hair.
“Hey,” John said standing up like a lightbulb went off in his head. “What’s the date?”
“July Third,” Tanvi said when no one else seemed to have an answer.
“I know where Aguilar will be on the fourth. His little brother hosts a party in one of his mansions by the harbor on the fourth every year. Aguilar uses it to find new girls.”
“Wait,” Cici stepped away from Dustin leaving him cold. “Where?”
“YOu can’t miss it, it’s a huge party every year.”
“I think I got an invite to that.”
“Do we think Paige will be there?” Dustin asked.
“Yes,” John said with a smile. “Aguilar wants her more than anything, where he is, she’ll be close.”
Paige stared out the window of her cell at the water. The sounds and smells of the ocean used to sooth her. Now, they haunted her every moment. Aguilar had yet to come back after her initial beating. But it was only a matter of time. And the anticipation of what he wanted to do was enough to drive her mad. Noah would find her, but when? How long, how far would Aguilar take this before she was rescued.
The door swung open and crashed against the stopper sticking out of the wall, making her jump. It was a woman. The first one she didn’t see in chains since she was taken by Lagron. In her arms was a beautiful red gown.
“Who are you?” Paige asked, standing and approaching her.
“I’m the housekeeper,” she said. She was too young to be a housekeeper. “Please, shower and put this on for dinner. Nick is waiting for you downstairs.”
“Nick?” she asked. “How old are you?”
“I’m seventeen,” she said with a smile. “Don’t worry about me, worry about yourself.”
A chill ran down her spine at the look in the young woman’s eyes. “How’d you end up here?”
“Did you hear me?” she hissed, her demeanor completely changing. “You stupid cow. Don’t worry about me. I have a great position here, you on the other hand, you’re going to die a slow and painful death. Now put on the dress, I don’t know if you’ll get fed again after tonight.”
She was gone before Paige could respond. Not that she knew what she’d say. What the hell was that? Her stomach grumbled and she decided to heed the young woman’s advice. Showering quickly, without shaving, she put the dress on and waited.
This time when the door opened it was a white man in a nice suit, his brown eyes were kind and full of pity. The kind of man to know better but not willing to stand up for what was right. Possibly the worst kind of man there was.
“This way Ms. Quill,” he said, offering her his elbow.
She took it and held her head high. “Don’t pity me.”
He raised a brow as he led her into the hall. “What makes you say that?”
“I pity you,” she said without looking at him. “Knowing the difference between right and wrong and being too cowardly to do anything about it? That’s worth pitying. I’m a fighter who was taken by the enemy. I know where I stand and what I stand for. And if I have to die for what I believe I’m ready.”
“Dying is the easy part, Ms. Quill.” He said as he led her down a large staircase. “You’re a long way from that.”