Home > City of the Lost (Casey Duncan #1)(2)

City of the Lost (Casey Duncan #1)(2)
Author: Kelley Armstrong

“Even if there was, the answer is no.”

He only shrugged, with a smile that was half “I’ll change your mind soon” and half genuine acceptance.

I wasn’t familiar with the campus area. I was attending the provincial police college outside the city and spending weekends with Diana, a high school friend who went to the local community college. Neither of us was from here. So when Blaine insisted that a dark alley was a shortcut to the pizza place, I didn’t question it … mostly because I was fine with what he had planned—a make-out pit stop designed to change my mind about getting Diana out of our apartment.

We were going at it hard and heavy when I heard the click of a gun. I gasped and pushed Blaine back. He looked up and jumped away, leaving me with a nine-millimetre pointed at my cheek.

“I only have fifty bucks,” Blaine lied—the rest was stuffed in his sock. “She has some jewellery. Take that and the fifty—”

“Do we look like muggers, Saratori?”

As the gun lowered, I glanced at the guy holding it. Early twenties. Dark blond hair. Leather jacket. No obvious gang markings, but that’s what this looked like: four young guys, one with a gun, three with knives.

I couldn’t fight them—I didn’t have a weapon and martial arts doesn’t work well against four armed attackers. Instead, I committed their faces to memory and noted distinguishing features.

“Does the old man know you’re dealing?” the lead guy asked.

“I don’t know what—” Blaine began.

“—what I’m talking about? That you’re Leo Saratori’s grandkid? Or that you were dealing on our turf?”

Blaine bleated denials. One of the guys pinned him against the wall, while another patted him down. They took a small plastic bag with a few leftover pills from one sock and a wad of cash from the other.

“Okay,” Blaine said. “So we’re done now?”

“You think we want your money?” The leader bore down on him. “You’re dealing on our turf, college boy. Considering who you are, I’m going to take this as a declaration of war.”

“N-no. My grandfather doesn’t—”

A clatter from the far end of the alley. Just a cat, leaping from a garbage bin, but it was enough to startle the guy with the gun. I lunged, caught him by the wrist, and twisted, hearing the gun thump to the ground as I said, “Grab it!” and—

Blaine wasn’t there to grab it. He was tearing down the alley. One of the others was already scooping up the gun, and I was wrenching their leader’s arm into a hold, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good. The guy with the gun jabbed the barrel against my forehead and roared, “Stop!”

I didn’t even have time to do that before the other two slammed me into the wall. The leader took back his gun and advanced on me.

“Seems we know who’s got the balls in your relationship,” he said. “The pretty little China doll. Your boyfriend’s gone, sweetie. Left you to take his punishment.” He looked me up and down. “A little too college-girl for my tastes, but I’m flexible.”

I thought he was joking. Or bluffing. I knew my statistics. I faced more danger of sexual assault from an acquaintance or a boyfriend.

“Look,” I said. “Whatever beef you have with Blaine, it has nothing to do with me. I’ve got twenty dollars in my wallet and my necklace is gold. You can take—”

“We’ll take whatever we want, sweetie.”

I tugged my bag off my shoulder. “Okay, here’s my purse. There’s a cellphone—”

He stepped closer. “We’ll take whatever we want.”

His voice had hardened, but I still didn’t think: I’m in danger. I knew how muggings worked. Just stay calm and hand over my belongings.

I held out my purse. He grabbed it by the strap and tossed it aside. Then he grabbed me, one hand going to my throat, the other to my breast, shoving me against the wall. There was a split second of shock as I hit the bricks hard. Then …

I don’t know what happened then. To this day, I cannot remember the thoughts that went through my brain. I don’t think there were any. I felt his hands on my throat and on my breast, and I reacted.

My knee connected with his groin. I twisted toward the guy standing beside us. My fingers wrapped around his wrist. I grabbed his switchblade as it fell. I twisted again, my arm swinging down, and I stabbed the leader in the upper thigh as he was still falling back, moaning from the knee to his groin.

Afterward, I would piece it together and understand how it happened. How a response that seemed almost surreal was, in fact, very predictable. When the leader grabbed me with both hands, I knew he was no longer armed. So I reacted, if not with forethought, at least with foreknowledge.

Yet it was the lack of forethought that was my undoing. I had stabbed the leader … and there were three other guys right there. One hit me in the gut. Another plowed his fist into my jaw. A third wrenched my arm so hard I screamed as my shoulder dislocated. He got the knife away from me easily after that. Someone kicked me in the back of the knees and I went down, and as soon as I did, boots slammed me from all sides, punctuated by grunts and curses of rage. I heard the leader say, “You think you’re a tough little bitch? I’ll show you tough.” And then the beating began in earnest.

I awoke in a hospital four days later as my mother and the doctor discussed the possibility of pulling the plug. I’d like to believe that somewhere in that dark world of my battered brain, I heard them and came back, like a prize fighter rising as the ref counts down. But it was probably just coincidence.

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