Dark Hearts

By: Abby Greenwood

Chapter One

This wasn’t the first time I’d had a gun in my face. I was a cop; it came with the territory. Usually, though, it gave me a nervous thrill. This time, it didn’t do anything but piss me off.

It was after midnight as we stood in the old warehouse. The October night was overcast and chilly, and the inside of the warehouse was dimly lit. Very dimly lit. The little bit of light in the room seemed to gleam off the barrel of his pistol, and the shadows made it seem bigger than it was. Somewhere in the distance, I heard a siren wailing and the unearthly howl of one of LA’s resident monsters. That sound, more than the gun in my face, sent chills down my spine.

“Are you going to pull the trigger or not?” I said.

The man with the gun standing in front of me giggled. “That anxious to die, pig?”

I shrugged. “Being dead only means I won’t have to share the air around here with scumbags like you. I would call that a win.”

Armand Castillo was a disgusting waste of a human being, who had a jacket that was thicker than a Russian novel. Robbery. Multiple counts of rape. Human trafficking, even murder. But he also had friends in high places—friends with deep pockets and high-powered lawyers. Even though we’d collared him a number of times, we had never been able to get any of the more serious charges to stick. We knew he’d done the crimes we’d busted him for, but he always managed to wiggle out of it one way or another.

That was one of the benefits of being one of the top guys in LA’s Russian crime families, I supposed.

“Let me ask you something, pig,” Castillo said. “Why do you have such a hard-on for me? I mean, there are far worse things in this city than me. Why not focus your attention on the real monsters like those . . . those . . . animals, instead of a simple businessman like me?”

There was no humor behind my laugh. “Simple businessman? By my count, you’ve raped at least a dozen women, extorted more people than I can count, sold young girls into the sex trade, and even killed some folks. From where I stand, there’s no distinction between you and those . . . animals.”

“You can’t prove any of that,” Castillo said. “As my very expensive lawyer has proven on many occasions. In fact, way I heard it, after the last time you unjustly arrested me, you were told to back off and leave me alone. And yet, here you are. Again.”

That part was true. After the fourth time we failed to put Castillo away, my captain had told me to focus my attention elsewhere. He said that we’d get Castillo in time, but my energy and focus was needed on other cases. Though I didn’t argue—mostly because, in LA, there was no shortage of cases that needed attention—I still couldn’t, in good conscience, walk away from the evil that Castillo was.

After we’d walked out of the courthouse the last time, he’d had the balls to stand right in front of me in his $5,000 suit, with his solid gold cuff links, and his Rolex, and give me a smile. “Better luck next time,” he’d said. When he gave me that smirk and threw out that line, something inside of me just snapped. I vowed right there and then that I was going to take Castillo down, no matter what. One way or another, I was going to take him down.

And here I was. With his gun in my face.

“Unjustly arrested, my ass. The only reason you’re not rotting in prison right now is because of who you work for,” I said. “Them, those fancy three-thousand-dollar-an-hour lawyers you have on retainer, and our screwed up justice system. So don’t even think you get to play the falsely accused martyr card here, Castillo. You’re nothing but a piece of shit in an expensive suit.”

He looked down at his well-tailored suit, smiled, and nodded. “This is an expensive suit, thanks for noticing. A businessman always needs to dress for success. My pops told me that a long time ago. Well, that and I always like to look my best for you, Kate. I keep hoping that one day, you’ll have dinner with me.”

“I’d rather cut my own throat,” I said.

“You’re far too beautiful to be so angry,” he said. “You try to dress down and hide it, but I can see what a knockout you are. A little makeup, maybe get your hair done, a nice dress—you could be on a magazine cover.”

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