CROW (Boston Underworld Book 1)

By: A. Zavarelli



“Just look at her face,” I plead. “Look at this girl. Not her file number, but her face. She’s not a street walker, or a call girl, or whatever the hell it is you think that makes her less important. She doesn’t do drugs, and she isn’t a criminal. Her name is Talia Parker.”

My lip trembles, but I go on. I’m not a crier. If my dad were here, he’d be telling me to get my shit together. Emotions are a luxury that Wilder’s can’t afford. That philosophy bled into our relationship too, staining or strengthening it, depending on how you look at it. He told me not to cry, so I didn’t. He told me not to care about anyone, so I didn’t. I squashed it all down and locked it up deep inside of me. Truthfully, I feel too much. But you wouldn’t know that about me. Nobody does.

Because I’m always in control.

The way Agent Cameron’s looking at me right now though, you’d think I was hysterical. I don’t care what she thinks. I just need to get through to her.

“We grew up together in foster care.” A strangled laugh bursts from my chest. “I know it’s such a cliché, right?”

My voice is maniacal now, as are Agent Cameron’s eyes as she watches me come unhinged. I forge on anyhow.

“If you read her file, then you know. You know she’s already slipped through the cracks once. Please…”

To her credit, Agent Cameron does actually look at Talia’s face. She takes it all in, for at least a good minute. It makes me feel better, this one small act of kindness. Most of the others couldn’t even do that much.

“She’s a very pretty girl.” Agent Cameron clears her throat and pushes the photo back towards me. “And if we find anything else, I promise you we’ll be in touch, Miss Wilder.”

The walls are closing in on me. Everything is fading, shrinking, condensing. I want to scream. To punch something. To act like a complete lunatic. I want to tear this lame office apart and stomp her nameplate into the floor.

Instead, I take another breath. That isn’t going to help my case.

“What about the evidence I brought you?” I demand.

Agent Cameron frowns and shuffles through Talia’s bank statements and all of the information I could gather so far, which isn’t a whole helluva lot. I’m grasping at straws. I know that.

“This isn’t exactly evidence,” she says. “All this proves was that she made cash deposits into her bank account every two weeks. Without a check, we have no way to trace who that money was from.”

“It’s from them.” I ball my hands into fists. “I can promise you.”

Her lips flatten, and I know she’s about to kick me out any minute.

“What about the other girls?” I press. “Don’t you think it’s strange that the missing person cases in this area have spiked over the last year? They’re all young, pretty girls. They have to be going somewhere.”

“I can assure you we have all of our best agents looking into it,” she says. “But at present there’s no connection for any of these girls to Slainte. Your friend is the only one who even had ties to the club, if what you say is true, and even so, there’s no evidence to that fact.”

“Send an agent in undercover,” I urge. “Then you’ll see. You’ll find out what’s really going on there.”

“We don’t have the resources for something like that,” she says. “And without any inkling of proof, our hands are tied.”

Proof.

That’s what it always comes down to. Of course they aren’t going to leave proof. They’re the fucking mob. What do these people expect, a giant neon sign that says we do underhand business dealings here? I’m sure the feds are already aware of it. Everybody in this city is. But that’s the problem. You never know which one of these assholes is on their team.

I tap my foot and dart my eyes around the office like a junkie. I hate these confines. These gray walls and the smell of recycled air. Proof. Where else can I get proof?

My eyes snap up to Agent Cameron’s, and I make my boldest suggestion yet.

“Send me in,” I say. “I’ll go undercover. No need to pay me. You can just liaise with me or whatever the hell you call it.”

She presses her lips together and the shutters come down over her eyes.

“We would never authorize anything like that Miss Wilder,” she says firmly. “So please don’t go getting any bright ideas.”

She grabs the requisite white business card she’s going to send me packing with and stands up. I follow, because it’s clear there’s no help to be found here.

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