Goading the Enforcer

By: Charlie Richards
Wolves of Stone Ridge: Book Six

Chapter One

Jared stared up at his childhood home. Ten years was a long time to stay away, even though he knew it was for the best. He didn’t want his life as an assassin to touch his parents or sisters. But when his mother had told him his older sister was getting married, he’d had no choice but to make the trip to Colin City. Jared took a deep breath and climbed out of his rented Porsche, prepared to put on the façade of his life.

He hadn’t even reached the porch when the door swung open and Patricia stepped out and rested her hands on her hips.

“You are so giving me a ride in that!” Grinning up at his sister, he drawled, “Oh, yeah? Who says?”

He was ready when she screeched and launched off the porch and into his arms. He swung her around in the air, laughing the whole time. She pecked his cheek before pulling back and grinning. “Welcome back to Colin City. Hasn’t changed much, has it?”

“Nope, it sure hasn’t,” he replied, setting her back on her feet. “Where are Mom and Dad?” he asked, his gaze straying to the empty doorway.

Patricia immediately sobered, making alarm bells go off in Jared’s head. His sister rarely did serious, which meant this was big. “Mr. Giovanni was killed. They thought you were coming into town tomorrow, so they’re at the viewing.”

He frowned. “What happened?” he asked as he headed back to his car to grab his bag, already thinking of what dark shirt he had to go with the black jeans he wore. He was glad he hadn’t checked into his hotel yet and still had his clothes with him.

She grimaced. “It’s kind of weird, really. The story is he was out jogging and got hit by a car. Hit and run. The police haven’t arrested anyone though.”

“Well, if it was a hit and run, then they wouldn’t know who it was,” Jared pointed out, dropping his bag on the dining room table and pulling out a black sweater. He whipped the light blue button-down shirt he wore over his head and quickly replaced it. Catching Patricia’s expression, he lifted a brow. “What?”

“Why are you changing?” she asked.

“I knew Mr. Giovanni growing up. I’m going to pay my respects,” he replied. He picked his keys back up and eyed his sister. “Where is it at?”

Letting out a sigh, she said, “Give me a sec and I’ll come, too.”

Five minutes later Jared was back in his car, driving toward Colin City Memorial. Patricia turned to look at him. “I only saw him a few times growing up. Why did you spend so much time with him?”

“He taught advanced computer courses when I was in high school. He’s the one who helped me get ahead and win that technology scholarship.” He grimaced, knowing the man wouldn’t approve of what he’d ended up doing with his skills, but he could still pay his respects to the deceased. “I kept in touch with him for a number of years.”

“That was him, huh?”

Nodding, he fell silent, thinking how his life had changed after he’d gone to college. During his second year, he’d saved a woman’s life, taking the life of her attacker in the process. In his panic over what he’d done and afraid of getting charged, he’d hid the body and made it look like the man had run away instead. That had been the first of many deaths to dirty his hands, but the money was good and he really didn’t mind the work as an assassin. He didn’t know what that said about him, but there it was.

He pushed those thoughts away. He was on vacation. It was a mandatory vacation, but a vacation nonetheless.

They arrived at the memorial center and headed into the building, quickly locating the viewing. Jared stood in line, listening to those around him tell stories of the man. When he reached the side of the grieving sister, he offered his condolences.

“How did you know my brother?”

Jared reached out and took one of her hands in both of his, offering comfort. “He was my teacher in high school,” he explained. “He tutored me and helped me get a scholarship. The world has lost a truly great man.”

“Aye,” the man standing next to her replied when it became apparent the woman was too choked up to answer. “Kyle was a great man. He’ll be missed.”

Releasing her hand, Jared turned to study the speaker. A large, shaven-scalped African American with dark brown eyes returned his gaze and Jared had the distinct impression he was being measured. He nodded, forcing himself to move aside. Then he stepped up to the casket.

Jared’s eyes narrowed. He was familiar with killing blows and the marks they left on a body. Mr. Giovanni’s death was not the result of a hit and run. Although mostly hidden by the suit jacket and tie, Jared still saw the thin discolored line around Kyle’s neck, which told him a completely different story. Someone had garroted the man.