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18

Spinoza faced the woman across his desk, reading the fear in her eyes and knowing he could use that fear against her, given time. She would say anything, do anything he asked her to when he was finished with her.

Given time.

But time was one commodity that he was running short of, and the others with him in the room — Liguori, Johnny Cats, and Tommy Dioguardi, from Minotte's family — were taking every opportunity to let him know of their impatience.

They were chafing at the bit, unsettled by the news from Kuwahara's. Paulie and the gunners from New York had run into a storm out there, and from all reports the few of them who walked away from it were looking at six-figure bail, for openers. It would take time to get them out — the ones who were not hospitalized already — and meantime the chieftains who were gathered at the Gold Rush had begun to feel exposed, unprotected. Spinoza was not worried.

There were still some forty guns at the hotel, and even if that bastard Kuwahara was alive, he would be tied up with the cops until they sorted out the shooting down in Paradise. If he was still alive, Spinoza meant to find it out and have a hot reception waiting for him when he made his bail, damn right. A welcome-home party that the little Nip would long remember.

As for the woman.

It was disturbing, Dioguardi's story of her showing up at Bob Minotte's just before the raid that took the Southern capo's life. She did not have the lethal look about her, but Spinoza had learned never to take anything for granted when it came to life and death. He put no faith at all in blind coincidence, and that meant she had a reason for her presence at Minotte's, and now here, in the Gold Rush.

Whatever that purpose might be, he meant to find it out within the hour. By any means necessary.

"All right, let's try it one more time," he said. "I want your name, the reason that you're here... and after this is settled, we can all relax. You can go home."

"Like hell..." Liguori started to intrude, but Frank Spinoza raised a hand and cut him off.

"Excuse my friends," he said, forcing a smile. "They're just a bit excited — and they don't take kindly to trespassers, eavesdroppers... that kind of thing."

The woman sat mute, just staring back at him, and underneath the fear, there was something else — a kind of grim determination, maybe, that told Spinoza to expect resistance.

Fine.

He had encountered stubborn types before, and where persuasion failed, the application of strategic force was often more effective. Spinoza reached inside his top desk drawer, drew out the Browning automatic and set it on the desk between them with its muzzle pointed in the woman's direction.

"Now. I understand you're scared," he told her. "And you've got good reason. If I don't get answers from you pretty quick... well, I can't be responsible for what might happen to you."

"I've got nothing to say," she informed him, her voice small and quaking. "You're holding me against my will. That's kidnapping. I'll stack that against a trespass charge any day, so go ahead and call the police."

"When I'm ready." Spinoza felt his smile going, but could not retrieve it in time. "First thing, I'm going to have those answers."

Silence once again and another toss of the head that set her hair in dancing motion all around her face.

"Goddamn it, Frank..."

"Shut up, Larry. Leave this to me."

And he could feel the others staring at him in amazement, wondering where he found the guts to talk that way to other capos, but Spinoza was no longer worried about their reactions. He raised the pistol, circling the desk to stand before the woman, and bent down, his face mere inches from her own.

"I'll ask you one more time," he said, and there was no mistaking the menace in his tone.

"Go to hell."

He hit her with his open palm, the shock of it exploding up his arm with stunning force. Her head rocked back, blood spurting from her nose, and when she opened her eyes again she had the dazed expression of a shell-shock victim. Frank Spinoza gave her time to clear her head before he stuck the pistol in her face and cocked the hammer.

"One last time," he told her now. "I want some answers and you'd better be convincing." He was giddy with the power of the moment, knowing that he could do anything he wanted to with this one. He could blow her head off, throw her on the desk and take her then and there with all the others watching... anything.

The others.

When he finished with the woman, he had plans for them as well. There would be rounds enough inside the Browning's magazine for everyone. A clean sweep, sure, and too long overdue.

The capo of Las Vegas smiled, a reptile's grimace, full of hunger unfulfilled.


* * * | The Bone Yard | * * *



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