The bag was removed, and unlike the other prisoners, this one seemed content to merely sit there. There were no bruises on his face. No bloodied lip or swollen features. He didn’t even seem tired. What I had mistaken for no fight was just an acceptance. It was as if he’d been asked to come in for an interview he didn’t want to give.
He was young, maybe twenty-four? He had light brown hair that looked as if he’d just run his hand through it, honey brown eyes, a tilted mouth that made it seem as if he were permanently amused, and dark eyebrows that somehow gave him a rounder-looking face with chubbier cheeks than he actually had.
He would’ve been a cute-looking frat boy if this had been another life.
“State your name,” Kai said.
The guy grinned up at him, that top lip curving in a lopsided grin. “Levi Barnes.”
“Why have I brought you into this questioning today?”
Levi shrugged, lounging in his chair. “Probably has to do with the fact you don’t want me with your sister, but more likely it has to do with the fact that I was turning evidence on my family.”
A hush fell over the council. They had begun to talk amongst themselves, but they all perked up at that last bit.
“Why were you turning evidence on your family?”
“Is this from the Barnes family in Milwaukee?” one of the council members asked.
Only Levi seemed to take offense at that statement. His grin slipped, and his eyebrows drew closer together.
“I’m not a this,” Levi protested. “I’m a fucking person.”
Kai ignored him, addressing the others. “I’d like the room for the council members to be locked down.”
“What?” one of the men barked.
Rose moved forward again. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“Lock it down, Tanner.”
Tanner was already moving. Two doors opened, and more guards streamed in. His guards, not anyone else’s. I recognized so many of them. They lined the inside of the room before the doors were shut again and deadbolted firmly in place.
Every person in that room was now a prisoner. Kai had taken complete control.
I tried not to react to this, but I couldn’t ignore the tingle that ran down my spine, the way it curled toward my stomach and began to warm me.
Kai looked at me once before turning back to Levi. He stood right next to him, speaking down to him. “You have a secret about my family, don’t you?”
“What is going on here, Kai?” Rose demanded. “I don’t like being a captive to your men. We all have men. We all have families, and I’m not saying that in the way Jillian was. My family will hunt yours down if you don’t get—”
“I’m getting to the goddamn point!” Kai yelled, his calm exterior slipping. “Sit your ass down. NOW!”
She quieted, her mouth clamped shut, and a second later, she sat down. I watched how she swallowed, her jaw trembling before she raised her chin.
“Kai Bennett, you cannot speak to another—”
“I can, and I will, and you might want to keep quiet so you can understand where the hell I’m going with this!”
“Kai—” another member began.
“Shut up!” He burned them with a look. “All of you.” Without waiting, he rounded to Levi. “Tell them what your family was hired to do. Now!”
But he didn’t. Levi held back, his eyes skirting around the room, passing over me without a second glance and lingering on the door before facing Kai again.
“Shit.” He raked his hands through his hair. “That’s what this whole thing was about, wasn’t it? Not about me turning on my family or having a fling with your sister. It was about the other matter. Look, man.” He started to get up.
A guard pushed him back down, hard. Levi barely noticed. He held a hand up, imploring Kai. “I had nothing to do with that. That was my uncles, and to be honest, they’re all right bastards. We’re basically nonexistent on the market in Milwaukee. Another family’s pushed us out. We just have a few businesses, a couple gambling circuits. That’s all.”
Kai waited for him to stop blabbering, and once he was done, he repeated, “Tell them what your family was hired to do against mine.”
Levi cursed. He began shaking his head, groaning as if he were in pain. “I can’t do that. I mean—shit. I can’t. I can’t. The stuff I was turning on my family was petty. Nothing big. Nothing like this. I can’t—no. Don’t make me. Please. I love your sister—”
“You don’t love my sister. You just called her a fling.”
“I know. I know, but there’s feelings there. Right? Man, I had plans. I was gonna—” He searched for words.
He was stalling.
“I was gonna ask her to marry me. I was gonna—yeah. Yeah! I had it all planned too, until you picked me up. I was heading to Minnesota to get her. We were going to go back to Mexico, get married there. I wasn’t even turning evidence, not really. It’d been a setup by the local cops. They set me up with child pornography.”
My eyes opened again. I was starting to see the dots.
Oh my God.
“They confiscated my computer, put that disgusting crap on there, threatened to take me in if I didn’t give them something on someone,” Levi whined. “So whatever. What I did tell them was minor, so minor. Just a slap on the wrist.”
Kai was letting him hang himself. The more Levi said, the worse it was for him.
I’d helped Brooke get to Minnesota, but he’d been the one to find her a place to hide. Those people had been his connections. That meant…
A string had tightened inside of me, twisting all my organs around and around each other, all into a nice, tight bowtie.
“Tell them. Now.”
So quiet, but so lethal.
I saw Rose close her eyes in surrender. She knew what was coming, whatever it was.
“Fuck!” Levi yelled before slumping in his chair. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” His hand went through his hair once more before he shot forward in his seat, sitting on the edge, his feet bouncing up and down. “Fine. You want to know what they did? We killed your mom.”
I deflated. And I looked at Tanner in the other room.
He had been expressionless until now. Now his eyes were wide, his eyebrows high and his mouth open. He reached forward, grabbing the back of a chair in front of him.
A few of the council members cast him sympathetic looks, but not Rose. Not Richard, and not the elderly man. I didn’t know what families they represented, their last names, but I didn’t think it mattered. Somehow, in some way, they were involved, because all three were eyeing the guards around them.
I suspected there was a policy that council members couldn’t sit at the table with weapons. So they were sitting ducks for whatever was coming their way, set forth by Kai.
Levi eyed Kai, shaking his head. He just kept shaking, and his leg started bouncing up and down. “You’re a dick, you know that?”
Kai hadn’t been watching him, but his dead eyes slid his way now. He stepped closer. “Start talking, or I’ll start torturing. Happily.”
Levi stalled for one more moment before giving in. “Fine.” He looked up, already flinching over what he was about to say. “About twenty years ago, my family got paid to make a hit look like a robbery. My two uncles did it. It was supposed to be just the woman, but then a second order came through for the guy too.”
“And that woman was?”
“Already said,” Levi huffed out. “Your mom.”
“And the man?”
He was quiet a moment. “Her lover. Randall Ritzo.”
Tanner’s eyes cut to the elderly man, and in a second, he had his gun out. Two steps and he brought the butt of the gun down on the back of the man’s head.
No one said a word. No one.
The elderly man fell forward, his head hitting the table hard, but he lifted a hand to the back of his head. “What the—” He pulled his shaking hand back, blood on his fingers. “Why the hell did you do that? Randall was my son!”
Tanner growled, taking the man’s head and grinding it into the table again. “My mother, you old fuck! You killed them, didn’t you?” He scowled at Kai. “You knew about this? THE WHOLE FUCKING TIME?!”
Kai didn’t respond, only turned to Levi. “Finish. Tell them the rest.”
Levi let out a long-suffering sigh. “You’re going to kill me after this, aren’t you? Don’t matter if Brooke loves me or not.”
In response, Kai pulled out his gun. He pointed it at him. “Tell them.” He cocked the gun. “Now.”
“Yeah.” He raised his voice. “Yeah, the order came down from the Ritzo family. It was his son. We didn’t get the purpose of killing your own kid, but whatever. Families have done worse, especially in our world. So yeah. My uncles killed ’em. Both.” He scowled right back at Kai. “That order came down from your dad too. Both your fucking families were behind it.”
“And one was already dealt with.”
Kai didn’t take his gun away. Instead, he stepped even closer, putting the muzzle right against Levi’s forehead. “Finish. Once and for all.”
Levi’s eyes closed then opened again. He looked tired, gaunt.
He stared past Kai, past the gun. “A deal was struck afterward. Your dad, Ritzo, and the other broad’s family all went in together with a side business. When you killed Senior Bennett, his end was scooped up by Dick Delaney there.”
The Richard guy scoffed, but he tugged at his shirt. “You’re lying now, Barnes.”