Chapter Nineteen

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“What do you mean she wants nothing to do with F.I.T.E.?” Naomi stared at Martin through the hologram screen protruding from Rumi’s phone, a twinge of shock and aggravation seeping from her tone. After all he and Albert told her du...

“What do you mean she wants nothing to do with F.I.T.E.?”

Naomi stared at Martin through the hologram screen protruding from Rumi’s phone, a twinge of shock and aggravation seeping from her tone. After all he and Albert told her during their little chat in the alley, she didn’t expect to hear the words ‘I talked to Lianna…and she wants nothing to do with F.I.T.E.’.

Martin must’ve sensed how pissed off she was because he sighed heavily, as if he wasn’t in the mood to answer any question thrown at him. He must’ve gotten home from the metro and was ready to call the night done, all thoughts of his promise to ring Naomi forgotten.

The alcohol in his system didn’t make him or the situation look any better. How did Naomi know he was drunk? The bright ceiling light that draped over his entire living room didn’t do much to cover his somewhat bloodshot eyes. She also noticed five slim forest green bottles of Guinny on Martin’s coffee table— four empty while the last sat open and half gone. Albert had said that the guy had an affinity to an evening pint—a few of them actually. With that in mind, she doubted Martin was sober enough to argue a defense that would make even a margin of sense.

Well, me and Rumi’ll find out in a minute, Naomi mused disappointingly.

“Her argument is that the group can’t be trusted,” he replied in a low, coherent tone.

“Can’t be trusted?” Naomi asked, confused. “Where the hell’s that even coming from?”

“And why are you speaking so low?” asked Rumi, who was standing next to Naomi with arms crossed as a hint of suspicion shone in her gaze.

“Well for one,” Martin answered, lifting his half empty bottle of beer off the coffee table, “I don’t want her to know I’m talking to the two of you right now. Her English is improving, so the last thing I want to deal with is another argument. And we both watched some of the protest footage on the website and you guys made her nervous. So she proposed that we work alone.”

“And what’s the verdict?”

Martin shrugged his shoulder sluggishly. “Unfortunately, that what we’re going to have to do…at least that’s what she’s wanting.”

Naomi paused, shaking her head in protest. “No offense,” she finally said pensively, “but I don’t like the sound of that.”

“I don’t either,” Rumi intersected. “Martin, you’re not dealing with average grifters here. If this whole thing’s as sketchy as you say it is, you’re going to have some dangerous people coming for you and Albert.”

Naomi watched as Martin shifted his attention towards Rumi, glowering at her comrade as if she was dancing on his last nerve. “You think I don’t know that?” he countered, his tone reflecting a combination of defensiveness and fatigue.

Naomi turned her attention to Rumi, sucking her teeth. “Are y—seriously?”

“What? He might as well hear the truth.”

“I get that, but right now, your version of the truth isn’t exactly putting him at ease. So allow me. Alright? Thank you.”

Naomi shot a thoughtful glance at Rumi then Martin, confused about the bit of human theatre she just witnessed. Jesus fuckin’ Christ. What in bloody hell did she miss while she was working in the Red District some moments ago? It was definitely a conversation the two of them would need to have later on, but right now she didn’t give two shits about whatever disagreement had taken place. Between Rumi insulting the guy’s intelligence and Martin’s growing chances of shutting down completely, this current interaction was more likely going to decline very rapidly and that couldn’t happen. Plus it was too late in the evening for any booze-induced drama when there were more pressing matters to attend to.

Naomi sighed and kept her attention on Martin, whose facial expression was still colored with slight provocation. “If you were to go it alone,” Naomi speculated calmly, “what would be your plan of action?”

Martin raked his fingers through his blond hair. “So far,” he began, “I’m thinking about researching pet shops here and in the surrounding areas, recruiting Chess to do the same. Of course, look for info on the F.I.T.E. website again. And find some way to visit some shops without raising any red flags…on the other hand, I can talk to her again.”

“Option B sounds more appealing.”

Martin smiled weakly as his round face softened, reflecting a weariness deriving from alcohol and lack of rest. “Not wanting a bunch of pissed breeders to beat you to death often does.” Martin sighed again, his shoulders hunching a bit as if weighed down by the conversation at hand. He raised his bottle as if he were making a toast to an assignation well planned between the three of them. “I’m tired,” he admitted. “And this day needs to end with me finishing my drink before returning to my chambers for tonight.”

Naomi felt her brow raised slightly. “Chambers?”

“Lianna’s word—not mine.”

Naomi chuckled. “Wow. Well, on that note,” she said, “I advise you to get some sleep and keep your sense of humor.”

“I plan on it,” Martin promised, nodding his head towards the screen. “Cheers.” And before Naomi had the chance to respond, the screen darkened.

 

“Shit,” Rumi cursed under her breath as she watched the hologram screen descend and disappear into her phone, the lack of sound abruptly veiling the office with an uncomfortable stillness. From her peripheral vision, Rumi noticed Naomi staring at the cell pensively, her lips pressed together while forming a thin, painful line. Her forehead, usually smooth and ageless, was now creased with deep lines brought on by unspoken apprehension.

For some reason, this sudden display of seriousness disquieted Rumi. Maybe it was because her comrade was the life of the house, her humor often worn on her sleeve. Very rarely did Naomi display any form of vulnerability and Rumi only exhibited hers to a certain extent. Regardless, it seemed a little uncharacteristic to Rumi and the rising discomfort started to bother her.

To collect herself, she moved away from Naomi, shifting her thoughts to the phone conference itself. Keating was obviously two bottles away from being completely smashed and didn’t bother to conceal it either. Veins were practically popping out of his fucking eyeballs as he drank from his bottle a couple of times. It wouldn’t shock her at all if drinking alone in his flat was all this man did to pass the time.

But Keating seemed the type who carried his liquor well—at least enough to string a few sentences together. She noticed that, regardless of how lit he was during the call, he held his story together. Hell, he even said her name once or twice: Lianna.

Even so, Rumi wasn’t ready to believe him yet—not when she hadn’t even seen this woman. For all she knew, Keating could have pulled some random name out of his arse just to look legit. So until the matter was thoroughly investigated, the verdict was still out on whatever this shit was.

“What’s going on in that head of yours?”

Rumi turned around and locked eyes with Naomi. Though her gray eyes flickered with hints of their familiar willfulness, they also shone with a mixture of insistence and curiosity as she anticipated a straightforward answer.

Rumi uncrossed her arms and rested her hands on her hips before she began tapping her digits against her right side. “You do know that that was a shitty plan, right?” she asked with a hint of urgency. “If Keating proceeds with this plan with no back up, he’ll be killed and so will your brother.”

“I understand the outcome, unfortunately,” Naomi replied, her tone strained with the same solemnity that continued to unsettle Rumi. “We just have to keep it from happening, is all.”

“I’m with you,” Rumi said gravely, allowing her arms to drop to either side as she begin to approach her comrade. “However, this woman won’t work with us. So how do we even proceed?”

“Frankly, I don’t give a flying fuck what Lianna says about our organization,” Naomi answered with a calm defiance. “We’re crashing the party whether they’re ready for us or not.”

“I figured as much.”

“Good. Glad to see you’re on board.” A sly half-smile graced Naomi’s lips as her expression softened, an indication to Rumi that her friend and right hand was back to normal.

“I take it you have their addresses,” Rumi pointed out, feeling her anxiety subsiding, “so I’m going to need that info to case Keating’s flat and you watch out for Albert. Meanwhile, I’ll get the squad in the basement to hack into the street cameras near their homes to watch for any suspicious activity.”

“Right. I owe Little Brother a visit anyway. I’ll head there tonight.”

“And I’ll check up on Keating and his supposed Little friend.”

Naomi stared at her, her face highlighted with quiet disbelief. “You still don’t think he’s legit?”

“You asked me to give them the benefit of the doubt,” Rumi reminded, taking her phone from Naomi’s hand, “not to believe it.”

“Fair enough,” Naomi shrugged, nodding with agreement. “So on that note, let’s be off.”

“Right…and take back up—actual people, not just your gun.”

“Wha—you’re shitting me, right?”

Rumi crossed her arms across her chest once again, looking straight at her in an attempt to stare her down. Naomi was a strange one, but nice until something or someone pissed her off. She could only imagine how her comrade’d react to some fuck who went after her brother. So any idea of Naomi going off on her own with only her Winston Churchill silencer and an unchecked temper wasn’t even one to consider.

To Rumi’s relief, Naomi sighed and rolled her eyes. “Fine,” she groaned before she turned to walk out of the office.

 

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