The Hitwoman’s Charity Cases
Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman Book 36
Not paying attention can get you killed.
As an assassin, albeit a part-time, inept one, Maggie Lee should know that.
But she got distracted. Easy enough to do when you have a large dysfunctional family, a menagerie of talking pets, and more than one boss.
One distraction has resulted in her agreeing to participate in a fundraiser spearheaded by her Aunt Loretta. Now Miserable Maggie is about to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Another could land her in some very hot water.
With all these distractions she’s stretched thin and itchy (sooo itchy!). If she isn’t careful, she could end up dead…but hey, at least she wouldn’t have to go on the charity date.
You just know it’s going to be a bad day when you’re staring at an empty bed.
“He’s not there,” I whispered.
“What do you mean, he’s not there?” God, the anole lizard currently curled up in my bra, demanded. I could feel him clambering his way up my bra strap, as though he didn’t trust my observation and wanted to see for himself.
“The room is empty,” I said. I glanced around the sterile hospital room, with its drab walls and drop-tile ceiling. It smelled faintly of antiseptic and was five degrees cooler than I was comfortable with. I shivered.
God, having reached my shoulder, confirmed, “He’s not here.” He managed to sound surprised.
“Excuse me,” a voice said from behind me.
Whirling around, I plastered a smile on my face. It drooped when I saw a middle-aged nurse in purple scrubs staring at me.
“The patient that was in this room,” I said quickly. “Where is he?”
“Gino?” she asked.
I nodded, fighting to keep my smile in place. I’m not sure how I felt about her referring to my boyfriend with such familiarity.
“He left in the middle of the night,” she said, putting her hands on her hips and shaking her head disapprovingly. “Against doctor’s orders.”
Alarm filled me. “What do you mean he left?” I still wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong with Gino. He’d ended up in the hospital a couple of days after getting banged up in a fight trying to protect his boss, the mobster, Delveccio.
She shrugged. “Can’t help you, honey. He’s just gone.”
I frowned, took one more glance around the empty room, and stalked out. “Where could he have gone?” I muttered.
“Maybe home,” God suggested.
“Maybe,” I said doubtfully. Even though it was a logical guess, I doubted that Gino was doing anything so predictable.
Still, it was worth a shot. I left the hospital and drove directly to Gino’s house. I banged on the door and got no answer.
“Why don’t you just go inside and look,” God asked.
I shook my head. Gino and I had been in a strange place ever since his crazy ex-fiancée had kidnapped and tried to kill him. I didn’t think he’d appreciate me invading his private space, especially if I had to break a window to do it.
“I’ll go see if I can catch Delveccio at the compound,” I said, sprinting for my car. The lizard let out a startled yelp as my sudden movement almost sent him flying.
“And what will you do if you don’t catch him?” he asked breathlessly as I dove behind the steering wheel.
“Then, I’ll go to Delveccio’s house, and I’ll bang down his door until he tells me where Gino is.”
“You do know that you’re talking about threatening the head of a powerful crime syndicate, don’t you?” God asked.
“He owes me.”
“And you owe him,” God reminded me. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be going off half-cocked. It’s not Delveccio’s fault that Gino is acting…strangely.”
I knew that the lizard was right, but I didn’t respond to his comment. We drove the rest of the way back to the family compound in silence.
When I’d gotten halfway down the driveway, Alejandro, the llama, came barreling out. I slammed on the brakes, already knowing what he was going to tell me, but I rolled down my window anyway.
“The boy child is being picked up,” he said in his Peruvian accent.
“Thank you,” I replied. “Anything else I should know about?”
“Only that I am on patrol and will keep everyone safe,” the llama promised.
“Great.” I flashed him a thumbs up and continued down the driveway, knowing I’d soon be having the same conversation with the blind peacock, Percival. To my surprise, the colorful bird didn’t stop me. I reached the barn, where the kids’ classroom was, without being accosted by another animal.
The rear door of the black sedan beside the barn opened the moment I slid to a stop in front of the building. Delveccio, the mob boss, climbed out, the buttons of his shirt, stretched tight over his belly, straining to hold the fabric together.
I hopped out of my car, eager to have a conversation with him. “Where’s Gino?”
He squinted at me. “Hello to you, too.”
Impatient, I squinted back at him. “Hello. Where’s Gino?”
“Are you telling me that you don’t know where he is?” Indignance that he’d believe me to be so naïve added an edge to my tone.
“Well, apparently you don’t know where he is,” he replied quietly.
“That’s why I’m looking for him.”
“And if he wanted to be found,” the mobster said slowly, “he would have told you where he was going.”
Panic clawed at my throat as I wondered what that cryptic statement meant. “Just tell me where he is.” Seeing the mobster’s scowl, I added, “Please?”
He shook his head. “I am not one to get in the way of a man’s decisions.”
I cocked my head to the side, wondering if he really believed that. After all, he ordered people to be killed on a semi-regular basis, and I truly doubted that was their choice. Still, I had enough sense not to voice any of that aloud.
“I just need to talk to him,” I practically begged.
Delveccio shook his head. “One does not mess with HIPAA.”
I blinked. “HIPAA?”
“The Health Information Patient Protection Act,” Delveccio said, nodding sagely.
“You have nothing to do with HIPAA,” I told him, knowing that it actually stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. (But honestly, his explanation actually sounded better.) “I’m just asking you to tell me where he is. I’m not asking you to tell me about his condition, or what’s wrong with him, or what his treatment plan is or why he’s acting so strangely. I just want to know where he is.” By the time I was finished, I was shouting.
“Maybe let’s not antagonize the nice mob boss,” the lizard suggested quietly from my bra.
I ignored him. Jutting out my chin in the direction of said mob boss, I demanded, “You owe me.”
Delveccio’s gaze narrowed to a slit, and I knew I’d gone a beat too far. I inadvertently took a step backwards, as though I might have to run for my life at any moment.
“You should watch yourself,” Delveccio warned in such a soft voice that I almost imagined that I’d misheard the implied threat.
“I’m sorry,” I apologized immediately. “I’m just so worried about him.” I hung my head, trying to blink away the tears that were threatening to spill.
“For the record,” he said gruffly, “I disagreed with him about his plan of action.”
I raised my eyes to blink at him. He was blurry through the tears. “You know what he’s doing?”
He nodded. “He’ll get in touch in his own time, Maggie. You just need to be patient.”
For a moment, I was taken aback by the sympathy and understanding I heard in the mobster’s voice. I really didn’t get to think about it, though, because three children came barreling out of the barn, screaming at the top of their lungs.
“Aunt Maggie! Aunt Maggie!” my nieces Katie and Alicia yelled enthusiastically as I hurriedly tried to blink my tears away. I bent so that I could hug them both simultaneously. Meanwhile, Dominic, Delveccio’s grandson, was yelling something about chocolate and cherries.
“Did you guys gorge on sugar?” Delveccio asked with a chuckle. “You certainly seem to be wound up.”
“No sugar,” Katie cheerfully told him. “But tomorrow we’ve got a field trip.”
Delveccio sent me a worried look. He knew that his grandson enjoyed attending school with my nieces, but he worried about his safety.
“Where’s the field trip to?” I asked Katie.
“To the kitchen,” my other niece Alicia replied.
“And where’s the kitchen?” I asked.
The girls and Dominic all pointed to the main house.
“Templeton’s going to teach us how to make heart cookies for Valentine’s Day,” Katie announced.
I saw Delveccio relax a bit when he realized they wouldn’t be leaving the property for their “field trip”.
“That should be fun,” I said with false cheer.
“Are you going to share with everybody else?” Delveccio asked his grandson.
Dominic nodded. “Especially Irma.”
“Who’s Irma?” the mobster asked, clearly confused.
“The donkey,” I told him.
He rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Into the car, you,” he told his grandson with a fond smile. “We have to go.”
I nodded my understanding, and with the girls each taking one of my hands, I began to walk toward the house.
“I need you for just a second, Maggie,” Delveccio called as Dominic scrambled into the car.
“You girls go get a snack,” I told my nieces, patting them both on the back so that I could return to the mobster. I was filled with hope that he was going to relent and tell me something about where Gino was or what he was doing.
“I need you to come by my place tonight,” the mobster said in a low voice as I grew close. “I’ve got a job for you.”