Chapter 37, Arrival
[BY XAVIER MARIGOLD JILTEN]
“Marigold, it’s time,” I whisper.
“Five more minutes,” my wife mumbles back.
“It’s been five more minutes for the last hour now, Marigold.”
Marigold proceeds to mutter incoherent excuses against my chest and I can’t help but pressing her closer against me. It’s so tempting to stay as we are. Warm under the maroon cover of the bed with the morning breeze lazily floating inside thanks to the glass wall opposite us still retracted. The spruce forest outside soothes us with its familiar smell and the birds chirp their greetings. I want to hold on to Marigold like this, naked and cozy, for the rest of the day, but... It’s Sunday and we have a plane to catch.
“Come now, Marigold. Or I’ll have to force you in other ways,” I tease as I finally build the courage to let go and get up.
I walk over to the open wall, naked, and stretch my limbs. I can’t believe we’ll have to leave this island in a bit. It’s just too...
“The view is breathtaking,” Marigold says.
I turn around, “Yeah it’s-” I stop when I see Marigold’s wicked little smile and realize what she’s referring to. “Why you...” I say and go to pounce my wife.
Marigold giggles and protests as I lay kisses on every inch of her skin. She tries covering up with the blanket, but I quickly keep her tiny hands in place with a strong grip. I trail those kisses up her neck, to her lips where I deepen the kiss. I still feel like all this is some sort of dream I’m yet to wake up from.
I let go once more and lock eyes with Marigold. “We really should be going,” I tell her.
“I know,” Marigold sulks.
“Come,” I say, and help my wife out of bed.
We take a scorching shower together before getting dressed. Wanting to be comfortable for the flight, I pick stone-colored chinos and a black shirt, rolling up the sleeves and keeping the top two buttons unbuttoned. Being left with what Nessa packed for her, Marigold goes for a floral cami dress and expensive high heels.
“Remind me where we’re going. I just put on something that would go with your outfit but I have no idea if I’ll be freezing or sweating,” Marigold says when we have our bags packed and ready. As scheduled, two attendants have arrived to take our bags for us.
“Don’t you want to keep it a surprise, Marigold?” I ask.
“No, I want to know what type of clothes to wear.”
“Don’t worry, Nessa already packed for you and our suitcases are on the jet,” I reassure my wife.
With help from the two attendants, Marigold and I finish up at the Lonely Island. With great reluctance, we leave our little paradise and head back to Isabella’s. It’s a little strange finding the place empty. The inner gang has probably arrived on location by now. Most likely they’re keeping watch and getting to know their surroundings before they try anything. Rescuing Owen’s sister requires the utmost caution. Dolls isn’t a group you can mess with.
The first thing Marigold does when we get inside the house is greeting Pollock. She snuggles her dog like she hasn’t seen him for months. Unable to resist the cuteness, I join her in petting the golden retriever. He’s growing out of his puppy phase and has gotten a lot bigger. If we train him right, he could be part of the inner gang for all I know. Deciding to take Pollock along with us, Marigold makes sure to pack a ton of dog food and treats. I don’t stop her since I also kind of like the idea of Pollock joining us.
“So wait, who’s coming along?” Marigold asks.
“We’re taking a dozen guards. You won’t see them much so don’t worry. They’re just there to patrol the area and make sure we don’t get attacked,” I reply.
“I thought the international gathering forbids violence?” Marigold asks.
“Yes, it does,” I answer and go to kiss my wife’s forehead, “if you’re caught.”
This’ll be the third international gathering I attend, my second one as the leader of the North. And yet three gatherings are enough for me to know that though there will be plenty of smiles, plenty of glares and words that smell of both venom and honey, nothing will appear as it is. Those that scorn you, might be your ally when others aren’t looking. And your greatest friend could be planning your downfall in the other room.
I’m sure Marigold is smart enough to know this.
With everything set and ready, I take Marigold by hand and lead her to the back garden where Raven is waiting. It’s been a while since I’ve flown my jet, but no matter how much I miss it, with Nessa and Daniel not here to cause trouble, I have the official pilot here today. I want to spend time going over the plan with Marigold in anyway.
We make our way through the garden, the place already stripped of any signs that there was a wedding just two days ago. Pollock is right behind us. At the slick black jet, the dozen Northern members that would be coming with us are waiting for us to board. I slow down and both greet everyone and remind Marigold of their names as I pass.
“Markus, Hellen, Moony, Tetsu, Haku, Smiles, Fry, Tiaan, Sprints, Shmit, Timothy, and Fluke,” I introduce. I know some of these guys Marigold have only seen briefly, but others like Markus and Fluke she immediately recognizes.
“Hey, you helped out at the bridge when the South was chasing us,” Marigold greets Fluke.
“Ey, don’t forget Tim. It was his explosives,” Fluke grins. The guy is still sticking with his braided mohawk and I don’t think I’ll ever understand it.
After Marigold makes sure to greet everyone else as well, we board the jet. My wife, Pollock, and I get comfortable at the back while the rest of the guys stay at the front. After a few words are exchanged with the pilot, I get comfortable in the cream-colored leather chair across from Marigold and we take off.
“So, I believe there are quite a few things we have to go over before we arrive at our destination,” I start.
“I’m all ears,” Marigold says as she casually plays with the golden retriever on her lap.
“So all in all, there ought to be sixteen individual illegal organizations at the gathering. Four upper-gangs such as ourselves, three Cartels, Five Mafia Families, one Yakuza clan, Two Numbers gangs, and one company from India. The four upper-gangs include us, the North, Southern Sterling, Rumbilion, and Vespucci. We have decent relations with Rumbilion. They owe us a lot of money and they aren’t too fond of Southern Sterling. As for Vespucci, they have huge Mafia connections and they were on really good terms with Sterling, but I think they are starting to question the current leadership. Officially they side with Southern Sterling, but Marco and Valentina were at our wedding and we’re pretty friendly with them. We could easily bring them to our side.”
“I like Valentina,” Marigold remarks.
“The five Mafia Families are Maranzano, Profaci, Mangano, Luciano, and Gagliano, but the only family we’ll be concerned with is Luciano. We have... connections with Don Vito Luciano. The connection isn’t good or bad, but for the time being, they won’t go against us. They’ll also make sure the other families don’t go against us,” I explain.
“Why’s that?” Marigold asks.
I sigh. “A few years ago the Don’s oldest son, Dino Luciano, ran away from home and joined the North under a new name. Can you guess who?” I ask.
“Don’t tell me that idiot Daniel is the son of an Italian Mafia boss,” Marigold groans.
I can’t help but laugh. “Daniel’s much more than that. Though I like to pretend he’s the North’s charmer, he really is our Contact. Growing up part of the Mafia made him meet a lot of important people. It’s thanks to him that the Italians would never so much as raise a finger against us. Not with Vito’s oldest son in our grasp.”
“So the idiot has a use,” Marigold muses.
“He’s our trump card if push comes to shove, Marigold,” I smile. “Anyways, that’s about it for the Italians. They don’t like us, but they won’t be a threat either. The cartels are a whole other story though. We are not on good terms with the drug lords. El Pablo hates all upper-gangs because he’s in debt with all of us as well. Luca Frank is a clinical old man who thinks his years of experience make him better than anyone and La Maria... If you see her you’ll definitely feel like you’ve seen her face before. She married a Colombian, giving her access to one of the biggest cocaine supplies in the world. And I bet you wouldn’t believe what her youngest daughter’s name is.”
“Who?” Marigold asks eagerly. She really is invested in all this.
“Eliza La Maria, though after she married, she became Eliza Bowmen. Blake’s darling Mother,” I answer.
“Wait!? Blake’s mom has ties with the cartels?!” Marigold asks amazed.
I lean back in the leather chair just as Claire comes by to offer us refreshments. I ask for a whisky and Amber asks for some white wine. When Claire hands us our drinks and walks off to ask the other Northerns what they’d like, I turn back to my wife.
"Blake has ties with the cartels,” I correct, “Or at least the West did. The West dealt in drugs, a very convenient business when your Grandmother is a queenpin. Though the Cartels haven’t really been in the picture, it doesn’t mean Blake’s dearest grandmother hasn’t been keeping an eye on things. And I think you’re wise enough to know after everything that’s happened with the West, La Maria probably hates us,” I say.
“More than that, I won’t be surprised if she sends an assassin to get me! After what I did to Blake... I think it’s safer for us to stay away from the cartels,” Marigold says.
“Wise decision,” I nod, “But the cartels aren’t our only enemies. India’s D company had an alliance with the South, using their ships. I think it’s safe to assume that alliance applies to Southern Sterling now as well. They still owe us a bit of money, but not enough to betray their allies,” I explain.
Marigold shifts her weight just as Pollock starts to settle down in her lap. She takes a sip of her wine. “It seems that a lot of people owe us money,” my wife remarks.
I grin, “Yes well, the North specializes in loans. Money is our business and as long as we have a lot of people in our debt, business is good.” I take a sip of my whisky as well - swallowing that burning sensation that I love so much before I continue explaining. “As for the South African number’s gangs... Those two... They’re just out to make life a little harder for everyone. It’s best to just ignore them. Everyone does. They’re just there to stir up some drama. And nothing good can come from trusting them.”
“Jeeze, do we even have any allies at the international gathering?” Marigold mopes.
I’ll admit, things don’t look too good for us, but... “Actually yes,” I answer, “The North is on shaky grounds right now. I’m not sure who will still be our allies when we get there, but last time I checked we were on good terms with the Yakuza at the very least,” I say.
“The Japanese?” Marigold asks.
“Yes,” I answer, “While most of the gangs go in debt with Sterling to acquire small arms, we aren’t. It’s partly why we’re such a large threat to Southern Sterling. We have a deal with the Yakuza. We’ve been getting weapons from them since world war two.”
“Whoa, the North’s that old?”
“Most of the upper-gangs are about one hundred years old if not more. Sterling’s the oldest of course. Dating back to 1802 with Ambrose D’logiram I believe.”
“I feel like I need to attend about a hundred more history classes just to grasp the basics of all this,” Marigold sighs. She takes a big gulp of her wine before setting it aside, “I mean, my family has been part of all this for hundreds of years, and yet I know nothing. Why was everything kept a secret from me?”
I frown at the sight of my wife slumping in her chair. I see the memories swirling in her head and I can already tell she’s trying to piece together all the clues left for her while her parents were alive. “I’m sure you would’ve been told everything eventually. You were going to marry me after all,” I remind Marigold.
She slowly nods and I can see the unspoken words on her lips.
If only my parents weren’t killed that day.
“Come, Marigold,” I say when I can’t take seeing her sad anymore. I get up and sit in the seat next to my wife and pull her closer. She rests with her head on my shoulder and even Pollock joins in when I wrap my arm around my wife.
“It’s a perfect fit,” Marigold mumbles casually, “I love resting like this.”
I remember a much more drunk Marigold saying something similar but unless I want a head injury, I’d rather not remind her.
“Rest for a bit,” I soothe my wife, “We’ll arrive in a few hours.”
And just like that, Marigold falls asleep in my embrace. Looking eerily similar to Pollock, she snuggles against me to the point where I can comfortably breathe in the smell of flowers and paint. I don’t blame her for taking a nap. Sleep wasn’t really on our list of priorities during the honeymoon. Something I’ll admittedly have to take the blame for.
“Mister Jilten,” Claire says.
I look over at the maid. “Marigold Jilten,” I correct.
“Mister Marigold Jilten, Sir, was there anything you wanted to eat?” she asks.
I shake my head, “No, Marigold and I will eat when we arrive on location.”
“Alright,” Claire says before she walks off.
None of the other Northerners dare disturb me with my wife soundly sleeping in my arms. I can see Markus wants to discuss security details, but one glare from my side, and he doesn’t look over for the rest of the flight. Unable to sleep, I stare out of the window as we pass clouds and I softly stroke Marigold’s golden hair. At one point Pollock has a nightmare and I go to stroke the pup as well.
By the time the pilot announces we’ll land shortly, the sun is starting to set. Marigold is still asleep and I keep it that way while we’re landing. I look out of the window and notice the airport not far from us. Unlike the other planes, Raven heads to a bit more secluded hanger for high profile guests. When we stop and the door opens, I decide to softly shake Marigold awake.
“Hey, we’re here,” I whisper.
“Where’s ‘here’?” my wife mumbles against my chest.
“Come, ” I urge and get up. I take my wife’s hand and lead her out of the jet where the North are lined up again. Just as Marigold and I exit Raven, she turns to me.
“The air’s very dry,” she remarks.
I smile and wrap my arm around Marigold as we reach the bottom of the steps. Just then, a limo arrives and a distinguishably Arab man excites the car.
“Welcome to Cairo, Egypt,” I tell my wife just as I plant a kiss on her cheek.