The Inner Circle
thought he might be. The page just disappeared.”  
    “What page?”  
    “Of the girl. It’s gone.”  
    We were at least three blocks away from the hotel now, weaving in and out of traffic.  
    The Kid said, “It was a setup.”  
    “What do you mean?”  
    “They knew you were coming. They expected you.”  
    “How do you know?”  
    “The fucking Beachside, dude. Even though you guys were going in, I looked into the place.”  
    “So?”  
    “It was bought a month ago. All the management, employees, everyone was given a pink slip. They were also given a thousand dollar severance pay. Even the fucking busboys. Seems the new owners wanted to have everyone going away happy, no hard feelings.”  
    “And?”  
    “Just last week the new owners—who so far are anonymous, no matter where I’ve looked—they sold the property to somebody. I forget who, but they got top dollar. So get this. The Beachside? It’s scheduled for demolition in three days.”  
    “Son of a bitch.”  
    “Exactly. It was a fucking setup. It’s a surprise the rest of you made it out alive.”  
    There was a beat of silence.  
    I said, “Kid, we’ll call you right back,” and disconnected the call. Then I said to Ronny, “Pull over.”  
    He eyed me in the rearview mirror. “Are you crazy?”  
    I leaned forward and jabbed the barrel of the Ruger against the back of his head.  
    “I’m not going to tell you again.”  
    Ian, sitting turned in the passenger seat, said, “Jesus Christ!”  
    “Are you going to shoot me, Ben?”  
    “Just pull over.”  
    “No.”  
    I racked the slide. “Don’t test me. I’m in no mood to be fucked with.”  
    As it turned out, Ronny didn’t have much of a choice. We had been fortunate so far making it through all the green and yellow lights, but now there was a red with several cars in front of us.  
    “Don’t do this,” Ronny said.  
    I pulled the Ruger away, turned in my seat, started grabbing the spare weapons and ammunition from the back.  
    “Don’t do this,” Ronny said again. “I know what happened to Carver sucks, but there’s no changing that. He’s gone.”  
    I pulled two guns from the back and a few spare magazines. “He wouldn’t leave us back there.”  
    “He’s dead , Ben. It’s that simple. He’s dead.”  
    “The girl isn’t.”  
    Ronny shook his head. “You can’t be serious.”  
    “The mission was to save the girl. I intend to finish the mission. Now, do a U-turn and take us back.”  
    “No. It’s suicide.”  
    I looked at Ian. “You coming?”  
    Ian said nothing.  
    I stared at him hard for a moment, then glanced at Ronny in the rearview mirror. Up ahead, the light changed from red to green. Traffic began to move again.  
    “I’m not taking you back,” Ronny said. “I do that I might as well kill you myself.”  
    “Carver would want it this way.”  
    “No he wouldn’t.”  
    I kept my gaze level with his in the rearview mirror. I reached for the door handle.  
    “Damn it, Ben, you go and you’re dead.”  
    I hesitated. Then I opened the door, saying, “All of us are already dead, Ronny.” I stepped out into the drizzle and leaned back in. “We just don’t know it yet.”  
    I slammed the door shut.

 
     
     
    13

    The Kid called almost immediately. Even though I was hurrying back up Collins Avenue, I felt the iPhone vibrating against my leg. Both guns were concealed, as were the magazines. I had my headed tilted down just a bit, the drizzle soaking my baseball cap.  
    When I answered, the Kid said, “Are you fucking insane?”  
    “Did anyone ever tell you how pleasant you are on the phone?”  
    “You are out of your fucking mind.”  
    “I’m surprised we haven’t started a swear jar for you by now.”  
    “Ben, I know you’re pissed at what happened to Carver—shit, I am too—but this isn’t the way to make things right.”  
    “Save it. I already heard Ronny’s

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