After we hauled his ass to the hospital and kept an eye on him for a while, he became our prospect. When we’re outside the clubhouse, the guy is on my hip at all times, learning how the fuck to behave himself. Other times, he’s also a runner. What he runs at any one time depended solely on how we are making our money that month. Pot. Guns. Stolen goods. If it’s illegal, odds are Carnie’s hauled it across state lines in the back of his Cessna 208. There’s only one thing we don’t touch, and that’s girls.

Until now.

Andreas Medina, Julio’s right-hand man, makes a low tutting sound, looking up from the bank of security cameras he’s studying. “What you want with this bitch, anyway?” he asks.

I remain slouched in the leather armchair of Julio’s security center, eyeing the two punks that have been left behind to keep watch over us. Just because Julio’s doing us this favor doesn’t mean he trusts us. Especially since I’m bribing him. “She’s hot,” I tell Andreas. “I saw Hector’s post go live and thought to myself, ‘Now that’s the kind of pussy I need in my collection.’”

Andreas grunts. It’s plainly clear that he doesn’t believe me. News about what happened in that side street in Seattle is spreading fast. Los Oscuros and the Widow Makers are at war. Everyone with enough common sense is battening down the hatches, preparing for the storm to hit. Julio and all of his men must know that this girl we’re paying them to fetch for us was involved in my uncle’s death somehow. That’s why I’m paying the fat old fuck a hundred grand to do this job for me.

The sound of approaching vehicles grows louder. Andreas doesn’t ask me any more questions about the girl; he’s too busy verifying that the cars slowly rolling into view on the security cameras are the same seven cars that left the compound four hours ago. A burst of static erupts from the radio sitting on the desk in front of Andreas. “La tenemos. Abre la puerta,” a voice advises. We got her. Open the gates. Doesn’t sound like Julio, but Andreas does as he’s told. On the grainy, pixelated screen, a set of huge, high gates swing outwards, letting the cars drive slowly, one at a time into the compound.

Carnie shoots me a stern look, and then stands. “Time for us to be going then.”

We should probably stick around inside and observe etiquette. After a business dealing with Julio, it’s customary to sit with the man and have a beer. We can’t afford that luxury tonight, though. I’m bone tired, and we need to get this girl as far away from California as possible. If we loiter here too long, the likelihood of her being murdered by Los Oscuros grows by the minute. I get to my feet, stretching out my body.

“Been a blast as always. Boys.”

Andreas jumps up too, holding out a hand. “Why don’t you just slow your roll, ese? Julio might want to confirm the exchange.” I pull out my cell phone and pull up the transaction confirmation. One hundred thousand dollars, cleared into the account details Julio gave me.

“Merry fucking Christmas,” I say, pushing past him. The guy who threatened Carnie with his semi-automatic a moment ago steps in front of me, blocking my way. He lifts his chin, daring me to do something. “What do you think happens if I don’t walk out of here?” I whisper. “What do you think happens if there’s even a scratch on me when I leave?”

The guy blinks at me. He doesn’t move.

“It’s okay, Sam. You can let him by.” Andreas places a hand on the guy’s shoulder, which seems to descale the threat level somewhat. They both move out of the way so I can exit, swiftly followed by Carnie. “Hey, Rebel,” Andreas calls after us. I glance over my shoulder. “There will be an end to this, y’know. You can’t hold it over him forever. Julio ain’t just some punk you can fuck with. We will get the files back.”

I give him a lazy smile, flashing teeth. I’m not afraid of you. “As always, such a pleasure doing business with you, Andreas. I’m sure we’ll see each other again soon.”

As Carnie and I hurry out of Julio’s villa, three half-naked women run down the corridor in front of us, screaming. They vanish through a side door, tits and ass flashing everywhere, and then they slam the door closed behind them. “Working girls?” Carnie murmurs.

“I doubt they’re here for the free tacos.”

Carnie spits on the ground, shaking his head at another guard as we exit though the front door. Outside, Julio Perez is heaving himself out of a dark sedan, groaning with the effort. He’s wearing fucking shades at night. Carnie elbows me, jerking his head at the fat fucker, as though he can’t believe what he’s seeing.

I laugh under my breath. “Right?”

Julio catches sight of us—must see us snickering at him—and flips us off. He finally manages to pull himself out of the car. “Motherfuckers,” he growls. “You should think twice before laughing at my expense. What you think this is, a fucking circus?”

“Something like that,” I answer. “Where’s the girl?”

“I slit her throat and left her ass out in the desert,” Julio snaps. The driver of the dark sedan climbs out of the car and stands there, staring at us like he expects us to start shooting or something. I know it’s a bluff, though. I have dirt on Julio. The kind of dirt even an Untouchable like him wouldn’t want getting out. He’d never risk the files I stole from him being made public knowledge. The cops already wanna lock him up; it’s not them he’s afraid of, though. It’s other gangs that would come after him if they caught wind of some of the stuff he’s been up to. Double-dealing. Skimming. Flat out stealing from the skinheads. Bad shit.