CHAPTER ONE

Walker


I don’t do massages.

Getting one implies that I’m overworked and stressed—both of which suggest weakness. In my world, weakness is the kiss of death.

I’ve been the head of the McManus family for five years, ever since my hardnosed bastard of a father dropped dead on the tennis court of his estate, probably to avoid losing the match. He hated second place. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t being groomed to step into his shoes and run the Boston underworld in which I was brought up. There wasn’t a hiccup when I took over, tightening up the operation and bringing the family into the twenty-first century.

I’m not a good man.

I’ve killed. I’ve intimidated. My business practices are illegal, immoral—and they make me a lot of money. I’ve got no intention of going legit any time soon, like the pale, pencil-pushing stool pigeons I see waiting at bus stops when I pass by in my Bugatti. No fucking thanks.

Those are the kind of men who get massages. Their positions at their jobs aren’t contingent on their strength. Their resilience. Their immortality.

Mine is.

Rich, my right-hand man, thinks he’s doing me some big favor surprising me with a massage on my thirty-fifth birthday, but if he thinks I’m going to lie down and let some stranger rub oil that smells like flowers on me for an hour, he’s got another think coming.

Unfortunately, Richie’s mind doesn’t work as quickly as everyone else’s and I don’t hurt his feelings, if I can help it. I met Rich on the first day of second grade when he was getting his ass kicked on the kickball field by a bunch of fourth graders. Growing up in Southie, I’d learned to mind my own business before I could walk, but I didn’t like the way the older boys had singled out learning disabled Richie. Didn’t seem fair.

So I sent them crying to the nurse’s office holding their bloody noses.

Richie has been my shadow ever since. No one messes with him now. I make sure he’s got an armed guard at his disposal at all times. Usually I do, too, but I don’t need my employees thinking I’ve gone soft.

“You’re going to love it, Walker. Love it. Best massage of your life.” Richie is wringing his Sox cap in hands. “I told them to give you the VIP treatment.”

I scratch an eyebrow. “Thanks, Rich.”

Yeah, not happening. I’ll sit in the room and check in with my lieutenants over the phone for an hour. The masseuse can text her boyfriend or whatever. Everyone goes home happy. The alternative is taking off my clothes and lying down, vulnerable in an unfamiliar place. That’s how people like me get killed and I’m planning on living for a while.

“Now, this isn’t one of them cheap p-places,” Rich continues in an excited tone, as we turn the corner onto a quiet, tree-lined street. It’s the section of the neighborhood where I don’t spend a lot of time. Part of the city’s “improvement” measures, which amount to some coffee shops, an overpriced shoe store and apparently, a day spa. Based on the total lack of foot traffic, I’m guessing South Boston ain’t looking to be improved on. “It’s not one of those happy ending deals, either. It’s a real, professional joint.”

“Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it,” I say, patting him hard on the shoulder. “A little R and R never hurt anyone, right?”

“Exactly.” He slaps his hat down on his head and opens a frosted glass door, set back from the street in a wreath of ivy and brick. Before we duck inside, I take a moment to scan the street for anything out of the ordinary. We were cautious coming here, doubling back and taking quieter roads, but the atmosphere has been tense lately in Southie.

A rival outfit from New York has been breathing down my neck to make a deal. They want to transport weapons through my neighborhood and they didn’t take it well when I told them to fuck off. I wouldn’t put it past them to make an attempt to forcibly remove me, their roadblock between point A and point B. I’m planning a visit to New York soon to put a stop to the situation in person, by fair means or foul, but until then, I’m taking no chances.

“And don’t you worry, boss,” Richie continues. “Don’t you worry, because I’ll be right in the waiting room watching your back.”

“I know you will, Rich.”

The receptionist, a young girl with a deep brown complexion and short braids, looks up and drops the phone she was cradling between her ear and shoulder. “Uh.” She stands up and drops back into her seat. “Oh God. I, um…I just work here. Should I get the manager—”

“Relax.” I hold up a hand and bare my teeth in my best impression of a smile. I get this reaction anywhere I go in Boston. And based on her accent, she’s local enough to know who I am. “My friend here booked me a massage.”

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