Home > Stolen Heir(3)

Stolen Heir(3)
Author: Sophie Lark

I had no fear as I approached Abel. If my heart won’t beat over that, it won’t beat for anything.

One week later, I go after Bartek. I doubt he’ll be expecting me—Abel has too many enemies for them to guess who might have killed him. They probably won’t think of my sister at all. I doubt she’s the first girl the Braterstwo attacked. And I haven’t breathed a word to anyone of my desire for revenge.

I follow Bartek to his girlfriend’s flat. From what I hear, she used to work the street corner herself, before being upgraded to his mistress. I buy a red cap and a pizza, then I knock on her door.

Bartek opens it, shirtless and lazy, smelling like sex.

“We didn’t order any pizza,” he grunts, about to shut the door in my face.

“Well, I can’t take it back,” I tell him. “So you might as well keep it.”

I hold up the box, wafting its tantalizing scent of pepperoni and cheese.

Bartek looks at it, tempted.

“I’m not paying for it,” he warns me.

“That’s fine.”

I hold it out to him, looking him right in the eye. He doesn’t show the slightest sign of recognition. He’s probably forgotten about Anna already, let alone wondered if she had a brother.

As soon as his hands are full of the pizza box, I pull my gun and shoot him three times in the chest. He drops to his knees, his face comically surprised.

Once his bulk is out of the way, I realize that his girlfriend was standing directly behind him. She’s short, blonde, and curvy, wearing cheap lace lingerie. She claps a hand to her mouth, about to scream.

She’s already seen my face.

I shoot her too, without hesitation.

She tumbles over. I don’t have a glance to spare for her. I’m looking down at Bartek, watching the color fade from his skin as he bleeds out on the floor. I must have hit his lungs, because his breath has a whistling sound.

I spit on him, too, before turning and walking away.

Maybe I shouldn’t have left Iwan for last. He might be the most difficult. If he’s at all intelligent, he’ll put two and two together, and guess that someone has a grudge.

But that’s the only way I can do it—the only way I can feel the full weight of catharsis.

So I wait two more weeks, searching for him.

Sure enough, he’s laying low. Like an animal, he senses that someone is hunting him, even if he doesn’t know exactly who.

He surrounds himself with other gangsters. He’s always watching as he goes in and out of his flash car, as he takes his tribute from the low-level dealers of the neighborhood.

I’m watching, too. I’m only sixteen years old. I’m skinny, half-grown, wearing my deli apron under my coat. I look like every other kid in Praga—poor, underfed, pale from lack of sunlight. I’m a nobody to him. Just like Anna was. He would never suspect me.

Finally, I spot him leaving his apartment alone. He’s carrying a black duffel bag. I don’t know what’s in the bag, but I’m afraid he might be planning to leave town.

I chase after him, impatient and a little reckless. It’s been forty-one days since Anna died. Each one has been an agony of emptiness. Missing the only person who meant anything to me. The only spot of brightness in my shit life.

I watch Iwan walking ahead of me, trim in his black leather jacket. He’s not an ugly man. In fact, most women would probably consider him handsome—dark hair, constant five o’clock shadow, square jaw. Eyes just a little too close together. With his money and connections, I’m sure he never lacks for female attention.

I’ve watched him enter and leave nightclubs with girls on his arm. Brothels, too. He didn’t attack my sister for sex. He wanted to hurt her. He wanted to torment her.

Iwan cuts through an alleyway, then enters the back of a derelict building, via an unlocked metal door. I lurk in the alley to see if he’ll reemerge. He does not.

I should wait. That’s what I’ve been doing.

But I’m tired of waiting. This ends tonight.

I crack open the door and slip inside. It’s dark in the warehouse. I hear the distant dripping sound of a leaky roof. It smells dank and moldy. The air is at least ten degrees colder than outside.

The warehouse is full of the skeletal remains of rusted equipment. It might have been a textile factory once, or light assembly. It’s difficult to tell in the gloom. I don’t see Iwan anywhere.

Nor do I see the person who hits me from behind.

Blinding pain explodes in the back of my skull. I fall forward onto my hands and knees. The light snaps on, and I realize I’m surrounded by a half-dozen men. Iwan is at the forefront, still carrying his duffle bag. He drops it on the ground next to him.

I’m hauled to my feet by two other men, my arms pinned behind my back. They search me roughly, finding the gun. They hand it to Iwan.

“Were you planning to shoot me in the back with this?” he snarls.

Holding the gun by the barrel, he cracks me across the jaw with the stock. The pain is explosive. I taste blood in my mouth. One of my teeth feels loose.

I’m probably about to die. Yet I don’t feel afraid. I’m probably about to die. All I can feel is rage that I won’t be able to kill Iwan first.

“Who do you work for?” Iwan demands. “Who sent you?”

I spit a mouthful of blood onto the ground, spattering his shoe. Iwan bares his teeth and raises the gun to hit me again.

“Wait,” a gravelly voice says.

A man steps forward. He’s maybe fifty years old, medium height, pale eyes, deep pitted scars on the sides of his face—as if he were hit with buckshot, or had severe acne at one point in his life. The moment he speaks, every eye in the room is fixed on him, with an expectant silence that shows that he’s the real boss here, not Iwan Zielinski.

“Do you know who I am?” he says to me.

I nod my head.

This is Tymon Zajac. More commonly known as Rzeźnik—the Butcher. I didn’t know for certain that Iwan worked for him, but I could have guessed it. In Warsaw, all lines flow toward the Butcher.

He stands in front of me, eye to eye—his bleached of color by age, and perhaps all the things they’ve seen. They cut into me.

I don’t drop my gaze. I feel no fear. I don’t care what this man does to me.

“How old are you, boy?” he says.

“Sixteen,” I reply.

“Who do you work for?”

“I work at Delikatesy Świeży. I make sandwiches and clean the tables.”

His mouth tightens. He gives me a hard stare as he tries to determine if I’m joking.

“You work at the deli.”


“Did you kill Nowak and Adamowicz?”

“Yes,” I say unflinchingly.

Again, he’s surprised. He didn’t expect me to admit it.

“Who helped you?” he says.

“No one.”

Now he does look angry. He turns his fury on his own men. He says, “A busboy stalked and killed two of my soldiers, all on his own?”

It’s a rhetorical question. No one dares answer.

He faces me once more.

“You meant to kill Zielinski tonight?”

“Yes.” I nod.


There’s the slightest flicker of fear on Iwan’s broad face. “Boss, why are we—” he starts.

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