Hostage (Predators MC #3)(132)By: Jamie Begley
“Oh, come now, you’re not old yet, Sal. A little rounder than I remember, but certainly not old,” Shadow teased.
“I know, I know. I got fat.” He sighed, placing his hands on his round stomach. “But it’s all Lorena’s fault. She cooks enough to feed the whole neighborhood. Which, now that I think about it, you should stay for dinner. She would love to see you.”
“And I her. But unfortunately, this is not a social visit. I’m here on a job, and I need a little… assistance.”
Sal’s eyes lit up at the words. “Anything for a friend. But,” Sal said, his voice becoming stern as he wagged his finger at Shadow, “you must stay for dinner. You know Lorena would never forgive us if you were in town and didn’t go to see her. Now, what do you need?”
“I need a sniper rifle. This is an important job, so I need your best. Don’t hold out on me,” Shadow detailed. Bringing weapons across the pond was doable, but Shadow preferred not to have the extra scrutiny that weapons invariably brought. He preferred to make contacts with reputable arms dealers and rely on a bartering system when traveling far from the United Kingdom.
“I think I have just what you need…” Sal winked at him then went into the back.
Shadow knew he kept all his secrets in a hidden wall, including his vast array of impressive weapons. Sal was a master arms dealer, but to the outside world, he was just a simple butcher. Whether you wanted a gun or a prime cut of steak, Sal was your man.
As Shadow waited, he walked around the store, looking at the various cuts of meat, his mind wandering to the first time he had ever met Sal fourteen years before.
He had been on his very first solo mission. Alone in New York, he had barely been eighteen, and terrified. Taking pity on the young boy’s inexperience and seeing his potential, Reaper had given him a call and directed him to the butcher shop. Back then, Sal had been a much more impressive figure. Tall and tan with bulging muscles and a fierce expression, he had looked like someone straight out of the Italian mafia.
Shadow thought back, remembering how silently Sal had been standing there, sizing up the scrawny teen who had wandered into his shop, claiming to have been sent by a friend.
“I don’t know any friends of yours, kid. Beat it before you get hurt,” he had said, staring him down.
“Th-the Reaper sent me,” Shadow had stammered, and Sal had raised his eyebrows.
“Reaper sent some snot-nosed punk into my shop? He just wants me to get arrested, doesn’t he?”
“Um, well, he said you could help me?” Shadow had said.
Sal’s face had softened, and he’d asked nicely, “What’s your name, kid?”
“Steven,” Shadow had lied. It was the first rule he had learned: never reveal your name. “Shadow” had come later, once he was a full-fledged member of the club.
“What’s your real name, kid?” Sal had asked again.
“My name is Steven,” Shadow had replied a little more firmly, and Sal had chuckled.
“All right, all right. You’ll tell me in your own time. Now, tell me more about what Reaper told you about me and this ‘job’ you’re on.” Sal had smiled at him.
From that moment on, Sal had treated Shadow like a son and friend, often giving him pieces of advice, letting him borrow some of his favorite guns, and introducing him to his alarmingly extroverted wife, Lorena, who, just like Sal, treated Shadow like her own son. Every time he was in the States, Shadow would make it a point to stop by and see Sal and Lorena, even if he wasn’t on a job.
Shadow was startled out of his memory as Sal shuffled out of the back room and around the counter.
“Will this do?” Sal asked, and Shadow’s eyes gleamed at the sight of the most beautiful rifle he had ever seen.
Later that night, lying in his comfortable hotel bed and stuffed with homemade ziti and tiramisu, Shadow dreamed about all the money he was about to receive and, though he didn’t remember the next morning, a pair of almond-shaped blue-violet eyes floated into his dreams.