PETROV DE LUCA
I heard my phone ring. I wasn’t asleep. I saw the screen light up on my nightstand and sighed. Loudly. I knew who it was. I knew what he wanted. I stared at the ceiling for a while and waited tuned out the ringing of my phone.
I got up from my bed and walked to the floor to ceiling window overlooking the city. When my PA got me this apartment I didn’t quite understand the ring to this window but now I did. It brought me peace at times like these. I was at the top floor of the building so the traffic noise wasn’t a problem. The city lights looked so beautiful from here. Coming from a hard edged man like me, that’s something.
I finally decided to take the call. I waited for him to speak first, I had a feeling he was angry. Seething. I heard him swallow. “I don’t see you here, Petrov”. He sounded calm. That was not a trait he had.
“That’s because I’m not there”. Being the asshole that I was, I had to say that. I knew he would say something bad. More threats, maybe. I wouldn’t be surprised if he issued more threats or sent his men to my apartment and beat the shit out of me. He kind of had to. He was running The Basement. These were thieves, Assassins’ and you name it. If his men doubted their leader for a second then that’s bad for business apparently. But I was tired of them running my life. They were always up in my business and made my life a living hell when I was doing those favors. I was the one laundering all their dirty money. Their business was the only business I was patient with because he was my brother. I took shit from him because he was my big brother and I respected him. He on the other hand was never really my biggest fan. He thought I was father’s favorite and that was true to some point. I’m sure no one would love being compared to their little brother their whole life and I understood him. Sometimes.
“You better be here in 15, Petrov”. He still sounded calm, impatient, perhaps. I stilled because that was so unlike my brother. But I also remembered how manipulated he was. I didn’t want to take any risks and he was my brother after all. Manipulative or not.
“Winter, everything okay?” I asked anyway. I listened to him take deep breaths and I got on my feet instantly. Something was wrong. Very wrong. “I’ll be there soon”. I hanged up and rushed into my closet and put on the closest jeans and t-shirt I could find. I took the stairs two at a time to the front elevator. Roman, my butler, was already at the door. He must have heard me coming.
“Mr. De Luca, what is the problem?” He came to my side and looked up at me. Everyone looked up at me apart from winter. Roman looked worried and I put my hand on his shoulder to assure him everything was fine. He had been our family butler since mother. When father moved back to Florence to continue his grieving, Roman decided he wanted to stay with me. Of course that pissed Winter off, as usual.
The memory brought a slight smile to my lips. “Everything is fine, Roman”. I gave his shoulder a tight squeeze before I walked into the elevator. I brought my phone out and texted my men to bring my truck around. They knew we were going to pay Winter a visit that night because I told them earlier.
I got into the garage and sprinted for the armored truck, like wasting any more time could lead to the demise of my brother. I hated the little fucker but I loved him as much and I couldn’t stand the thought of him gone. One of my best men, Seth, came to the window and looked at me blankly. Yes, I never drive the armored truck alone. I never go anywhere alone. I was Petrov fucking De Luca. “Boss, what’s wrong?” He knocked on the window for me to roll it down and I did.
“Something is wrong with my brother. If I am not back in an hour come with your men. I need to go alone”. I sped out of the garage into the streets and drove straight to the basement. I kept imagining the worst scenario and told myself to stay calm. All I could gather was that Winter wasn’t okay because he never runs out of words to say and he was weirdly calm throughout the whole call. If someone had him and wanted me for the exchange I would gladly take his place.
HIS MEN DIDN’T TRY TO keep me out of the gates like usual and that got my heart racing more. I quickly got out of the truck and went inside. I took the elevator to the basement. There was no one in the open area. I moved into the room to find glass shattered on the floor. The chairs were all over the place, there was wine and food all over the floors. I actually got scared.
“Winter?” I walked further into the room to find him sitting on his throne with his face in his hands. I released the breath I was holding when I saw that he was still there and he was okay. He must’ve made the mess. “Winter, talk to me”. I was standing in front of him but he made no effort to move or even look at me. So I knelt down in front of him and placed my hand on his knee. I had never seen my brother like that and it kind of broke my heart. I was still in suspense because I didn’t know what was going on. This man carried himself well and he was never afraid to show his face to anyone. He was never afraid to look anybody in the eye because fear wasn’t something he had in him. Hell, fear wasn’t something our father instilled in us. “You gotta talk to me, man”. I looked at my hand on his knee.
He took a deep breath and lifted his upper body to lean on the back of his throne. He didn’t look me in the eye, he looked at the wall at the end of the hall. He then averted his gaze to my hand on his knee. “Father was found dead in his house in Tuscany”. He then looked at me. I felt my blood go cold and I immediately moved my hand from his knee. I got on my feet and moved away from him, like the longer I stayed close to him, the more the news would be true. I looked at Winter from across the room. “What do you have?”
He brought out an envelope from his side and laid it on the table in front of him. I crossed the room and took the envelope. I opened and the contents fell down to the floor. I leaned down and picked it up. They were photos. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was so shocked that I fell into the nearest chair. Our father was on the floor with a pool of blood all around him. It was a gruesome death to die and whoever did this was going to pay dearly. His intestines were all over the floor. I dropped it to the floor and moved to the next photo. In that one, he was hanging on a noose and it looked like someone had stabbed him constantly. I felt sick to my stomach and I dropped everything on the floor. I looked at my shoes and finally understood why Winter was in such a state.
“Keep going” I heard Winter speak and I shook my head. I couldn’t keep going. The two photographs that I’d seen were enough. “Keep going!” He shouted and I swear I heard the bars on the windows shake with his shout. I didn’t want to obey but my body did. I picked up the rest of the photos. Most of them were of the same thing, our father on a noose or on a plastic paper with blood all around him and some of his internal organs on the floor. The last one was different. It was a photo of a brunette at a park which I recognized because our mother took us there when we were kids. I looked at her face and imprinted it to my memory. I knew it was her because that photo couldn’t be in that envelope along with those dirty pictures unless she had something to do with our father’s death.
“Tell me everything”. It came out as an order more than a request. I turned to my brother and saw the dread written all over his face. He didn’t want to tell me. I knew. He looked away from me and stood from his throne. He came towards me and sat on the chair beside mine. He looked at me in the eye and said nothing. I knew that look. He wanted me to stay, me being the little brother. He wanted me to stay here in Manhattan and pretend that everything is fine while he went to Tuscany to sort out the death of our father. “I. Will. Not. Stay.”. I said the words slowly but with a lot of authority. Winter sighed and looked to the floor. “He was my father too, Winter. Don’t expect me to sit my ass down and do nothing. We’re doing this together.” I didn’t leave room for discussion because I stood and headed straight for the hallway to the entrance.
The walk to my truck was painful. I couldn’t imagine a life without my father. He was my rock, the only man I look up to. I would never be the man that I was without him and I feared that his death would mess with me for the longest. Winter was not going to tell me everything that happened so I was going to get the information myself.
I drove out of the gates of the basement at high speed. I called Seth to arrange for my trip to Tuscany. “I want you to call Jones. Tell him to get me anything he can on my father. Where he was last seen, with who. I want every goddamn detail, Seth”. I growled into the phone. My breathing wasn’t steady because I was angry. I gripped the steering wheel so tight my knuckles turned white. Whoever that woman was, she was going to pay for my father with her blood. I would do to her what she did to my father. I would show her no mercy. Mercy was the last thing on my mind. Who the fuck does she think she is? She messed with the wrong family.
“Boss, I will make sure to get back to you when he tells me anything”. He did not ask me why I was asking for such information about my father. He must’ve heard my tone and decided to let it be and that’s how I wanted it to be. I wasn’t going to answer any questions. I trusted that Jones would get me the information that I wanted. He was the best spy and analyst in the whole world and I knew he wouldn’t take long to get me what I wanted. I sped through the streets back to my building. I got the truck in the garage but I didn’t get out .I didn’t know what to say to my men. What exactly do I say? I decided to only tell Seth and Roman because they were the two men I trusted with my life in this building. Of course I trusted my men but not as much as I trusted these two.
I took a deep breath and got out of the truck. I carried myself the way I always did. My build was still the same. My shoulders were still straight, I couldn’t let them know that something was wrong. I punched in my codes and took the elevator to the top floor. Seth was there. He was waiting for me to come home. When I saw him, my resolve vanished and I let my shoulders slacken a little bit. I leaned on the wall and stared at him. “Father’s dead.” I waited for him to digest what I had just dropped on him.
“Petrov, I’m sorry. What happened?” he came to me and stared up at me. Seth was a well-built man but he was nothing to him. He sighed and looked at the clock on the wall. “How long has it been?” His gaze turned back to me. I shrugged because I didn’t know.
“That’s why I need Jones”. I pushed myself up and went to the staircase to be faced by a pale Roman. He must’ve heard the conversation I had with Seth. He just froze there and I didn’t know what to say. My father was his closest friend regardless of their differences.
“Tell me what happened, Sir”. He took a step down so he was at the foot of the stairs. I looked at him and felt my heart break.
“I don’t know, Roman. Jones is working on it”. I turned back to the stairs and took them slowly. When I got to my room, I threw myself on the bed and sighed loudly. He was gone and was not going to come back. My mother’s death was so hard to deal with because she was the glue that held all of us together. When Dad told us that she had cancer, I took it hard because I knew if we lost her then I would lose Winter too. She died and Father went back into his little shell. He moved back to Tuscany, his home before marrying mother. We only saw him once in a while, mostly during the holidays.
I remembered the last time I saw him.
Winter and I sat at the table with him. Dinner was served by his newly found chef, Ronaldo. He left everything on the table then disappeared to the kitchen.
Father poured himself scotch and drank the whole thing without breaks. I was amazed that he could still drink as much bat his age and I was kind of worried at the same time.
“Maybe you should cut back, Father”. I said as I drank my vodka. I was a vodka kind of guy. He looked at me from the rim of his glass and suppressed a smile.
“Are you saying I’m too old for this, Little Man?” He smiled widely and tried not to smile too. No matter how old I was, he still called me that. He said he’d call me that til he died.
“Yes, you’re too old. You can’t keep up with Winter and I”. I stared at him then moved my gaze to winter. Winter smiled. With his eyes. He was always a serious guy. With our line of work, it was necessary. Sometimes, I lacked that seriousness. Being a world-known Banker who laundered and was the treasurer for most of the underworld businesses, I needed that but I guess we all had our faults. There was always a side of me that was merciful. Even in the worst situation and then as usual, Winter, would have to pull my head up from my ass. Apparently.
“Petrov is right, Old man”, Winter said as he looked over at me and I saw his playful eyes. Father looked between us and then leaned back in his seat. He brought his arms across his chest. His arms were still chiseled and nothing about him screamed sixty-eight. He always carried himself just like he did when we were kids. He was still a man with a strong-build of a man in his thirties.
“I raised both of you, I will not take any shit from any of you. Now, eat”. He turned to his plate and started eating. The conversation was officially over. We talked about business and a bunch of other stuff. Stuff that I was not interested. He started golfing and he made sure we knew because he brought up every chance he got. I mean, I can’t blame the guy, he was in his 60s and wanted to act like every old man out there but I knew it wasn’t something he wanted to do.
I turned on my side and sighed. I was never going to be the same man again. Ever.