A pool of thick, dark red blood begins to rise up out of the wound, around the blade of the knife, and then around the hilt when Spider has driven the weapon all the way into the other man’s body.

I scream, but there’s no sound—only a high-pitched out-rushing of air from my lungs. The vice-like grip around my chest tightens, and a sharp pain lances through me—my shoulder, burning, suddenly on fire. Spider draws the knife out of Conahue’s body; the old man is still alive, but the muscles in his face fall slack. He’s not got long left. He reaches up a shaking hand and clutches at the wound in his torso, his feet twitching. Spider watches him, back still turned to me, with such stillness that I get the feeling he’s mentally recording this—the life slowly slipping out of his victim, absorbing every fine detail of the moment so he can replay it again later.

A violent crash of sound roars down the alleyway, and I’m suddenly hit with the sensation of it—a wall of noise slamming into me, rattling my bones. I don’t know how I didn’t hear it before. It can’t have registered through the fear, the horror of watching that knife disappear into a man’s body. The guy holding onto me turns along with everyone else to see what’s going on; a motorcycle has pulled into the alleyway behind us.

The high wrought iron railing is all that stands between me, trapped with this group of killers, and the single biker on the other side. The bike’s headlight spears through the darkness, lighting us all up and eliciting a chorus of Spanish curse words from Spider and his friends. “What the fuck is he doing?” one of them hisses.

Spider snarls, pacing to the railings, knife still in hand, though it’s now dripping with blood. “You’re too late, ese!” he hollers. “It’s done. Run back to your cabron and tell him he’s fucked. And so are you!”

The growl of the engine cuts off abruptly, so that Spider’s last words sound outrageously loud against the following silence. The guy holding onto me clucks his tongue derisively when the figure on the bike climbs off and lowers the hood on his sweatshirt—a handsome guy, late twenties, with dark hair and dark eyes. From the way he walks toward us, I can tell he’s built like a tank. He’s wearing gloves. He reaches to the back of his waistband and produces a gun.

“Are you fucking kidding me, ese?” Spider laughs. “There are eight of us and one of you. You gonna shoot us all through the railings before one of us gets you?”

The biker on the other side of the gate doesn’t say anything. He has quick eyes. He takes in the scene before him—the old man on the floor behind us; me clasped tightly in someone’s arms, my mouth covered; blood splattered on the top of my Converse shoes; the other men behind me. He sees all of this, and his face remains completely blank.

“You realize what you’ve done,” he says. He doesn’t look at anyone in particular, though it’s clear he’s talking to Spider. He looks down at his gun, snaps back the action and then frees the clip containing the ammunition.

Spider takes hold of one of the railings, the steel of the knife in his fist clanking against the steel of the gate. “I did what had to be done, pendejo. You’re a man who gets things done, I’ve heard. You should know all about that.”

The biker on the other side of the gate casts his eyes upward from under drawn brows, apparently not even remotely fazed by the situation. He presses the first bullet out of his clip into the palm of his hand, and then fits the clip back into the gun. The gun goes away, back where it came from. “Borrow your knife?” the biker asks.

Spider shrugs. An evil smile spreads across his face. “Sure, hijo. Why the hell not?” He reaches his hand through the gap and drops the weapon into the snow. The biker comes closer, bends and collects the knife. He’s only three feet from me now. I can see the club patch stitched onto his hoody over the right hand side of his chest—Widow Makers—along with the small separate patch underneath that, which says V.P. The club’s emblem—a fleshless skull flanked by two guns and surrounded by stitched roses—is so close I could reach out and touch it, if only my arms weren’t being pinned to my sides.

The biker glances at me quickly—an assessing, curious look—and then he bends over the contents of his hand and begins scratching the tip of the knife against the bullet. A rustling whisper runs around the group behind me.

Is he really doing it?

He’s marking that round?

No way.

The biker finishes whatever he’s doing and then holds the bullet between his index finger and thumb for Spider to see. “You want this?” he asks. From the eager look in his eyes, Spider definitely does want the round. I just don’t have a clue why. In fact, I have absolutely no clue what’s going on. Everyone else seems to know what the biker’s actions mean, and all I can do is wonder.

“I do believe it’s customary to hand it over,” Spider says, amusement thick in his voice. He reaches through the railings and holds out his hand. The biker slowly shakes his head. He looks at me.

“I’ll give it to her,” he says.

Spider’s face twists into a scowl. “As you can see, my friend is a little tied up at the moment.”

The Widow Maker tips his head to one side, casting dark eyes over me and lifting both eyebrows. “Something tells me this woman isn’t your friend, Raphael.” And then, to me, “Are you his friend?”

I don’t know what the hell to do. My mouth is still covered, but I could probably shake my head. And then the guy holding onto me would probably snap my neck for pissing them off. My eyes widen, my tears blinding me. How the hell can this guy be so calm when it’s clear I’m being held against my will? It’s fucking obvious Spider, this Raphael person, whoever he is, isn’t my friend.