Rupert was a close friend with Alessandro Gaudio, the head of the crime family. He’s a fixer, a fighter, and has his own long history making things happen in the city.

Ryan Shane

Lady Vash had taken Mr. Shane’s drink rather than wait for a new one. She shooed one of the men off the stool and took the seat herself. If anyone would recognize Rupert, it’d be her.

And yet, she also didn’t offer up Bella.

“Rupert, you lost your charge and made a mess trying to get her back. Why should I think she’d be safe with you?”

He looked around at his men, a little uncomfortable. Likely didn’t appreciate being talked down to in front of his men.

“You know it’s more complicated than that. She was with the Belrose boy.”

“I assume that’s been taken care of.” Vash sips her drink, never taking her eyes off the man.

He sighs, but his shoulders still look tense.

“Yes, but if they haven’t started looking for her yet, they will soon.”

“Because you told them?”

“I would never!”

The two in charge glared into each other’s eyes. Mr. Shane looked away, and saw the other men in the room all looking sheepish in their own ways.

“Leave us,” Rupert orders, then turns to Ryan. “That goes for you too, boy.”

Vash takes a sip, seemingly ignoring the tension she caused.

“No, he stays.” Rupert scoffs at Vash’s statement.

“We’re talking about this in private!”

“And so we shall. I trust Mr. Shane, especially more than I trust you right now. And I’m just a little lady. What would I do if you turned violent?” Vash smirks.

Rupert turns to the rest of his men, who seem confused as to whether they should leave or not.

“Well? Get out!”

The men quickly shuffle outside. Left in the room are Rupert, Vash, and Mr. Shane awkwardly looking between them.

Rupert collapses onto the couch and buries his face in his hands.

“Thanks for the excuse. Honestly, I don’t know what to do, Vash.”

“I figured as much. Who found the body?”

He sighs before answering.

“Carlota. I don’t know how she got here before me. I talked to the neighbors and it doesn’t sound like she knew who lived here, but there’s a chance she knows. And that’s assuming the shooter didn’t leak it to the family already.”

Vash sets her glass down on the counter.

“About that: What have you heard?”

Rupert leans forward and looks up toward Mr. Shane. The bodyguard shifts his shoulders around at the eyes boring into him.

Vash speaks again.

“That wasn’t just for show, I trust him. Beyond the fact he owes me, he’s like a damn puppy in his loyalty.”

Mr. Shane’s eyebrows narrow as he looks at his boss. Not exactly the most dignified description.

“You can’t be too careful. Things are going to hell.” Rupert leans back in his seat again. “I’m not sure what the family knows, but I did learn more about the would-be lovers.”

“Lady Gaudio didn’t tell me what went down, but I carefully put out some feelers. What I heard shook me.”

“You can skip the part about their relationship. I’m already caught up on that.” Vash grabs and downs the rest of her drink.

“No, you aren’t. Raphael wasn’t just involved with Bella. He had three more women on a damn near rotation.”

“Which paints an even bigger target on Bella. Goddamnit.” Vash slams her glass back down.

“I could tell from her voice she didn’t shoot the boy, but it’s not likely the Belroses will see it that way. They hear Raphael was screwing around on her, and they’ll think she killed him out of jealousy.”

Vash stands up and paces around the room. She crosses her hands behind her back taking glances out the window every so often.

Then she walks over to one side of the room and pulls up the carpet. She presses on a few planks of the wood flooring and lifts a loose one, pulling a small bag out, before replacing the flooring.

“What is that?” Rupert questions.

“Bella borrowed money from Kegs to run away. If the Belroses are going to be after her, might as well not have someone else too.”

“Hand it to me and I’ll take care of it. And I just need you to tell me where Bella is and I can get her out. After that, the families can go to war for all I care.”

Vash pauses, looking between the bag and Rupert. She hands it to him.

“I’ll send you a message when we can get her somewhere safe for the transfer. Keep your ear out, or you might miss it.”

He takes the bag and gives a nod to her.

“Thank you, Lady Vash. I’ll get this right to Kegs.”

Ryan continues looking between the two, nervous as anything and fighting the urge to say anything.

Rupert stands and heads to the door.

“I’ll be waiting for the word, Vash.”

“You’ll get it soon enough.”

With that, Rupert takes his leave.

As soon as the man was out of earshot, Ryan urgently whispers to his boss.

“What was that all about?! Bella owes the money to Lenny, not Kegs!”

Vash walks into the kitchen, digging through the cupboards.

“Yes. That’s right.”

“So you knew you were wrong?”

“Mr. Shane, why did we send you here first?”

Ryan hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep, and the day has been long and complicated.

“I was supposed to draw the men away from the apartment for you to get the money?”

“Specifically, you were supposed to draw away the Belrose men. The ones who we thought discovered the body.”

Ryan thinks about this, and shakes his head.

“You can’t be saying Rupert is in on it? Yeah, he’s kind of a crumb, but after the Belroses got rid of the body, why wouldn’t Rupert look around here?”

Vash continues digging around the kitchen. She seemed very intent on finding something.

“Because he’s not that dumb. He claims the family don’t know who owned this apartment. But if the cleaner for the Gaudios is hanging around here when no one else knows what happened? Why risk it?”

“Then what was he doing here?”

Vash feels a false back to a drawer and quickly works to remove it.

“Trying to find something to track her down.”

She pulls out an envelope, looks inside and gives a smile to Mr. Shane.

Ryan was sure this night was far from over.