Mia’s broken voice comes over the long-distance connection like a knife. “It’s Letty. She’s been murdered.”
The world just kinda grinds to a halt around me. Noisy crowd fades away. She says something else, but it sounds like I’m at the bottom of a well and her voice is echoing off the walls.
“Dom? Dom! Are you still there?”
“Yeah, I’m here. When’s the funeral?”
“Two days from now. Saturday, at eleven. Her parents are coming down, but they gave me permission to put her in our family plot. Next to Jesse.”
I let my eyes slide shut, as the wave of memories crashes over me. “I’ll be there.”
“Bullshit, Dom. They’re still looking for you, you know. They’ll expect you to come back for this. It’s not worth it, is it? She wouldn’t want you to sit in jail because you wanted to see her casket go in the ground.”
“I ain’t stupid enough to walk into the funeral parlor, Mia.”
“God, you’re such a hard-headed bastard sometimes.”
She sighs into the phone. “Yeah, I’m good. The Feds stopped by though. They’ve got someone watching the house. Just… be careful, Dom. You’re my favorite brother.”
I manage a bark of laughter. “I’m your only brother.”
“Exactly,” and the line goes dead. I lean back against the stucco building and stare up at a sky so bright and clear and blue it almost hurts my eyes. Reminds me of Brian’s eyes. The details have begun to blur a little around the edges, but I still recall every moment of that afternoon at Neptune Netty’s.
The soft tenor of his voice, “long as we’re cool, Dom.”
Always. I slide the shades down onto my nose and push away from the wall, ignore the warring sensations of anticipation and remorse that roil through me.
It hurts, having to watch Letty’s funeral from a distance. Looking down on my sister, not able to be there at her side. The colorful fleet of racers tucked up along the curb, like a flock of macaws. Hector’s down there somewhere, I know. Eddie, too. Hearse and limousines provided by the funeral home.
Dark sedans, off out of the way. Out of place, too. Unmarked, screaming of badges. Mia’s words echo in my head and a twinge of rage tries to edge its way in. They’re harassing her, here?
That’s when I see him. Dark suit, hair too short, but I’d know that lean and lanky form anywhere. Hands still crammed in his front pockets. He’s not scanning the crowd of mourners huddled around the gravesite. Nope, not him.
Brian O’Connor is looking directly at my carefully chosen lookout spot. He knows I wouldn’t miss this, and he knows I’m not stupid. Probably knows it better than I do, come to think of it.
He makes no signal that he suspects I’m here. Just turns his back and walks to the nearest cruiser, slides into the seat and disappears from view.
I wonder if he bothered paying his respects to Mia. Wonder if she’d even let him.
Wonder what the fuck is going on. My instincts might have a history of sucking when it comes to Brian Earl Spilner O’Connor, but the alarms are definitely going off right now.
Might have been out of the area, but I kept a finger on the pulse of things easily enough. Letty was a big source of that, but Hector and the rest of them didn’t let me down either. Steady stream of information. Even when I didn’t want it.
The desire to talk to him is strong, and disconcerting. Seeing him again, even at such a distance, sends a tingle tracing down my spine. I don’t like that. I got other priorities. I didn’t come back for him.
This is all about vengeance. Retribution. You don’t fuck with mine and walk away unscathed. Brian sure as hell paid, in spades. Still not sure how I feel about that. Moot point, though.
I can see him, like it was yesterday. Blood on his hand, holding the cell to his ear. Rattling words that didn’t seem to be registering the right way in my head. The surge of confusion. Replaced quickly by pain. And then rage. Anger at myself, for being so blind, for refusing to see what Vince tried to tell me so many times. At Brian, for lying to me, with more than just words. He lied with his eyes, his smiles; that easy companionship that felt so comfortable it was like a second skin. Weaseling his way into our tight little circle, with ulterior motives. Weaseling other places, too, actually. I can admit that he got under my armor, without even trying. If he hadn’t, why the hell had it hurt so much? Fuck, hurt still, sometimes.
When I let myself think about it. Like now.
I stand there and stare down on the funeral, not seeing anything anymore. Not really. Just remembering. I understand what Brian’s motives were. For being undercover. For breaking that cover. Even for handing me the keys.
Or at least I think I do. Or maybe I don’t, really. Hell, I don’t know. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m angry at him for doing what he did, betraying our trust.
Fuck that. Betraying my trust. I believed in him, when Vince didn’t want me to. I took his words at face value.
And they were worth squat.
That really pisses me off. I’m not angry at him for breaking my sister’s heart. It’s barely a ping on my radar.
Yeah, we’re cool, I think, turning to walk back to my wheels. Always. But that doesn’t change that I’m angry and want some fucking answers.
But not just from Brian.